U.S. says Israel’s Jewish settlement expansion plan in West Bank city ‘deeply concerning’

JERUSALEM, Aug. 24 (UPI) — The State Department on Tuesday said reports that Israel plans to expand a Jewish settlement into a military compound in the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron are “deeply concerning.”

During a press briefing, Mark C. Toner — deputy spokesman for the U.S. Department of State — said the expansion of Israeli settlements is opposed by the U.S. government and could corrode peace efforts between Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

“Certainly, if these reports are true, it would appear to be an effort to expand civilian Israeli settlement in the city of Hebron, and that would represent a deeply concerning step of settlement expansions — settlement expansion, rather, on land that is at least partially owned by the Palestinians,” Toner said. “We strongly oppose all settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. And we’ve said repeatedly such moves are not consistent with Israel’s stated desire to achieve a two-state solution.

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Earlier this year, the Israeli Defense Ministry issued a planning permit for several Jewish housing units in Hebron’s H2 area — fully under Israeli control — where the units are expected to be built on land belonging to the Israeli military’s Mitkanim outpost.

Toner also said the U.S. government is concerned about the “accelerated rate of demolitions undertaken by Israeli authorities” in the hills of Hebron, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel recently issued orders for seven Palestinian homes to be demolished in Hebron hills.

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