Netanyahu boosts West Bank settlements

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered that plans be advanced to construct some 800 homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, an official statement says.

The announcement was widely expected ahead of the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, who unlike outgoing President Donald Trump, has been critical of Israeli settlement policies in the past.

"The prime minister ordered the advancement of construction of hundreds of homes in Judea and Samaria," the statement issued by Netanyahu's office said, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.

It said the 800 homes would be built in the settlements of Beit El, Tal Menashe, Rehelim, Shavei Shomron, Barkan, Karnei Shomron and Givat Zeev, but gave no starting date for construction.

Palestinians have condemned Israeli settlement activity, on lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as an obstacle to the creation of a state they seek to create in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Most countries regard the settlements that Israel has built on occupied land as illegal. Israel cites historical, political and biblical links to the West Bank and over 440,000 Israeli settlers live there, among three million Palestinians.