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The UN has condemned Israeli plans to build more settlements in the occupied West Bank.

According to UN spokesman, “unilateral actions” were an obstacle to peace based on a two-state solution.

On January 24, PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would build 2,500 more homes in Jewish settlements “in response to housing needs”.

It is the second such announcement by the Israeli authorities since President Donald Trump took office on January 20.

Palestinian officials said the plans undermined peace hopes by building on land they want for a future state.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, said: “For the secretary general there is no Plan B for the two-states solution.

“In this respect any unilateral decision that can be an obstacle to the two-state goal is of grave concern for the secretary general.

“There is a need for the two parties to engage in a bona fide negotiation to reach the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, two states for two people.”

Donald Trump has indicated that he will be more sympathetic to settlement construction than his predecessor, Barack Obama, and has appointed a staunch settlement supporter as his ambassador to Israel.

Image source Wikimedia

Last month, he criticized President Barack Obama for declining to veto a UN Security Council resolution which demanded Israel immediately cease all settlement activities and warned they were “dangerously imperiling the viability of a two-state solution”.

About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Most of the new homes approved on January 24 will be built in existing West Bank settlement blocs, including 902 in Ariel and 652 in Givat Zeev.

One hundred will be constructed in Beit El, a settlement near Ramallah that reportedly has received funding from a foundation run by the family of Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

Following the announcement, Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Twitter: “We are building – and continuing to build.”

Benjamin Netanyahu says he still supports a two-state solution, but on January 22 he reportedly told ministers that he was lifting restrictions on construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as the city’s municipality approved permits for 566 new homes in the settlements of Pisgat Zeev, Ramat Shlomo and Ramot.

He also discussed the peace process with the Palestinians with President Trump in a telephone conversation, during which he was invited to a meeting in Washington in early February.

“The president emphasized that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties, and that the United States will work closely with Israel to make progress towards that goal,” the White House said.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi strongly denounced January 24 announcement.

She said in a statement: “Once again, the Israeli government has proved that it is more committed to land theft and colonialism than to the two-state solution and the requirements for peace and stability.

“Such a deliberate escalation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise constitutes a war crime and the flagrant violation of international law and conventions, in particular UN Security Council resolution 2334.”

Hanan Ashrawi called on the US and the rest of the international community to “undertake serious and concrete measures to bring about a full cessation of all settlement activities and to hold Israel to account for these disastrous plans with punitive measures and sanctions before it completes the destruction of the territorial and demographic contiguity of the West Bank”.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) are liable for six attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004, a New York court has ruled.

Six attacks in and around Jerusalem killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more during the second Palestinian intifada more than 10 years ago.

The jury awarded victims of the attacks more than $218 million.

The Palestinian groups expressed dismay at the court’s decision and vowed they would appeal.

As some of the victims were American citizens, the lawsuit was filed in a US court.

Photo AP

Photo AP

After deliberating for a day, jurors ruled in favor of 10 American families who were seeking damages related to the six attacks.

The Israeli government has denied any official involvement in the lawsuit.

A joint statement by the PLO and the PNA described the charges as “baseless” and said they were disappointed by the ruling.

The victims’ families allege that internal documents show the attacks were approved by the Palestinian authorities.

“Those involved in the attacks still receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority and still get promoted in rank while in jail,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Israel-based Shurat HaDin Law Center, a lawyer who is representing the victims’ families.

But defense lawyer Mark Rochon told jurors that the PA and PLO did not have knowledge of the attacks before they took place.

He said the organizations could not be held liable for the actions of suicide bombers and gunmen, whom he argued acted alone.

The victims had requested more than $350 million. The US Anti-Terrorism Act could yet allow for the fine to be tripled.