Israel NGO: Record number of West Bank outposts set up in 2023

Israel NGO: Record number of West Bank outposts set up in 2023
Israel NGO: Record number of West Bank outposts set up in 2023

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - The body of a Palestinian man lies on the road as Israeli security forces secure the area of a suspected stabbing attack, near Maale Adumim settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, February 5, 2024. — Reuters pic

JERUSALEM, Feb 15 — Israeli settlers established a record number of wildcat outposts in the occupied West Bank in 2023, a watchdog said today.

Twenty-six settlements not recognised by the Israeli government were established last year, including around 10 since the war in the Gaza Strip broke out on October 7, the Israeli group Peace Now said in a report.

The report linked the spike to the arrival in government of extreme-right figures. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power in December 2022 in a coalition with far-right and ultra-orthodox parties.

Since then, Israeli authorities have allowed “settlers to establish outposts unhindered,” Peace Now said.

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“Under the Netanyahu government, we have witnessed unprecedented support for settlements.”

Netanyahu led Israeli governments from 1996 to 1999, then from 2009 to 2021, before returning to power in late 2022.

His current ruling coalition includes religious ultranationalist ministers such as Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, who are staunch supporters of the settler movement.

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Both live in settlements themselves.

Peace Now said 2023 saw the highest number of wildcat outposts—those established without the approval of the Israeli authorities—since the phenomenon began in 1996.

The previous record, 23, was in 2002 during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, it said.

By comparison, only five were established in 2022, when Israel’s government was made up of a broad spectrum of political parties without Netanyahu’s Likud or the Religious Zionist party.

After their creation, these wildcat outposts are often legalised by Israeli authorities.

In 2023, around 15 outposts began the process of retroactive legalisation, Peace Now said.

Around 490,000 Israelis live in dozens of West Bank settlements that are deemed illegal under international law. They live alongside around three million Palestinians in the territory.

Palestinians see these settlements as a war crime and major obstacle to peace.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their future independent state.

France on Tuesday sanctioned 28 “”extremist Israeli settlers”, after Britain and the United States sanctioned four whom they accused of violence against Palestinians. — AFP

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