Israel PM approves 300 settler homes in occupied West Bank

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday approved the "immediate" construction of 300 settler homes in the occupied West Bank as his government came under pressure from right-wing Jewish groups.

"After consultations in the prime minister's office, the immediate construction of 300 homes in Beit El has been authorised," a statement from Netanyahu's office said, adding that planning for another 504 homes in annexed East Jerusalem had also been approved.

According to the statement, the 300 units in the West Bank had been promised three years ago following the demolition of other homes in the Beit El settlement.

The move came after the Israeli High Court earlier Wednesday upheld a demolition order for two structures being built illegally in the Beit El settlement in the West Bank. The planned demolition had drawn protests from settler groups who clashed with police at the site.

Netanyahu had said he opposed the demolition of the housing units under construction, which began on Wednesday.

The prime minister holds only a one-seat majority in parliament following March elections and settler groups wield significant influence in his right-wing government.

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though not by the Israeli government.

They are seen as further complicating peace negotiations aimed at leading to an independent Palestinian state. Talks have been stalled since last year.

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