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JERUSALEM: Israel’s government on Sunday approved the construction of 31 settler homes in Hebron, the first such green light for the flashpoint West Bank city since 2002, a cabinet minister said.

Construction permits were agreed in October last year but needed the government’s approval, according to the Peace Now NGO which monitors settlement construction in occupied territory.

“For the first time in more than 20 years, Hebron will have a new Jewish neighbourhood where a military camp once stood,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said after the weekly cabinet meeting.

He said in a statement that the project will comprise 31 settler homes and two kindergartens.

“It is an important step in the global activity which we are carrying out to reinforce settlements in Judea and Samaria,” added Lieberman referring to the occupied West Bank.

The Hebron units are to be built on Shuhada Street, once a bustling shopping street leading to a holy site where the biblical Abraham is believed to have been buried.

Peace Now said in a statement that the land on which the settler homes will be built legally belongs to the Palestinian municipality of Hebron.

According to Peace Now settlement plans in the West Bank have increased since the beginning of 2017, when Donald Trump, a key ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was inaugurated as president of the United States.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2018