Israeli government approves millions to illegal West Bank settlements
TEL AVIV - Israel's government on Sunday approved nearly $13 million in financing for the West Bank settlements of Kiryat Arba and within Hebron, officials said, following a wave of Palestinian attacks in the area.
The decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing cabinet will see some 50 million shekels ($12.8 million, 11.6 million euros) allocated to "strengthen" the communities.
"Government offices, I must note, have all been recruited to assist the residents who stand heroically in the face of vicious terrorism," Netanyahu said ahead of the approval.
The money will be allocated over three years and be designated to a variety of issues, including social, education and security services, and come from the budgets of the relevant ministries.
Kiryat Arba is a large colonial settlement near Hebron, the largest Palestinian West Bank city, and hosts several hundred Zionist settlers in a tightly guarded enclave.
The Hebron area settlers are at the center of a recent wave of violence that has rocked Israel and the Palestinian territories since last October.
At least 214 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese have been killed.
The army has said that around 80 of the alleged attacks on Israelis have been carried out by Palestinians from the Hebron area.
Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land Palestinians view as part of their future state.
The United States, the European Union and many others in the international community have called for a halt to settlement building.
Netanyahu's government is considered to be the most extremist in Israel's history, and key members of his cabinet are strong supporters of settlement building and opponents of a Palestinian state.
A similar decision, allocating 70 million shekels ($18 million, 16 million euros) to a variety of settlements, was announced last month. Two officials said Sunday's decision was about new monies.
Also on Sunday, hundreds of Israeli settlers marched between the Palestinian village of Tarama and the illegal Israeli settlement of Otniel, south of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.
The marchers demanded more security for the settlements following a wave of attacks carried out by Palestinians in the area during the past week.