Israel plans 2,500 new West Bank colony homes

In addition to the 2,500, Lieberman said he will advance another 1,400 units that are currently in preliminary planning stages

Occupied Jerusalem: Israel’s defense minister said Thursday he will seek approval next week to fast-track construction of 2,500 new West Bank colony homes in 2018, an announcement likely to further ratchet up tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

Avigdor Lieberman’s office said in a statement that he aimed to fulfill a commitment to expand construction in the West Bank colonies, including some remote outposts and the Jewish colonist enclave in the West Bank city of Hebron.

In addition to the 2,500, Lieberman said he will advance another 1,400 units that are currently in preliminary planning stages.

“In the coming months, we will bring for approval thousands more housing units,” Lieberman said, according to the statement.

The announcement came two days after Palestinians urged the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, to open an investigation into Israeli policies in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, including colony construction, accusing Israel of systematic crimes, including apartheid in the occupied territories.

Israel has called the Palestinian move “legally invalid.”

Israel is not a member of the ICC and argues the court does not have jurisdiction.

Israel captured and occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 War and has since built dozens of colonies there.

Over 600,000 Israelis now live in Occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank colonies, areas Palestinians seek for their future state.

Much of the international community views the colonies as illegal and an obstacle to peace.

Israeli watchdog group Peace Now reported earlier this year that colony construction has surged under the Trump administration, considered the most pro-Israeli US administration to date.

Trump has asked Israel to show restraint, but has avoided strong condemnations of Israeli colony construction.

His Mideast peace team is dominated by people with ties to the colony movement.

Peace Now responded to Lieberman’s announcement, calling it a “scandal” and saying on Twitter that the “messianic right-wing government has distorted priorities, and this morning is proud to approve thousands of new housing units over the Green Line, and gives an incentive to continued creeping annexation.”

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