A day after two Israeli soldiers were killed in the West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that his government will authorize thousands of the settler homes built illegally in the occupied West Bank, some of them decades ago.
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The move is likely to please pro-settler members of Netanyahu's right-wing coalition while angering Palestinians, who want the West Bank as part of a future state.
"Arranging the rights for the homes allows thousands of residents to be provided with infrastructure of public buildings, educational and religious buildings," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.
It did not give a specific number of homes but Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted that more than 2,000 homes would be getting permits.
Netanyahu’s announcement comes just a day after Israel's army said a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israeli soldiers who were setting up a flying checkpoint at the entrance of the illegal settlement of Ofra. The shooting killed two soldiers, and severely injuring another. During his announcement Thursday he also vowed that anyone who attacks the Israeli people will "pay with his life" as a reference to the attacks in the West Bank.
Some 500,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in settlements, that are illegal under international law, in areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.
In August, an Israeli court broke new ground, and infuriated Palestinians, by giving legal recognition to the Jewish outpost of Mitzpe Kramim, built without government authorization on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank.
Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Most countries consider all settlements that Israel has built in territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal.
Netanyahu also said he would try to advance plans for 82 new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Ofra and two West Bank industrial zones.
Netanyahu last month faced a challenge from the far-right after his defense minister resigned and lashed out at the government’s acceptance of a ceasefire with the Palestinian militant group Hamas amid a surge in Gaza violence. Other far-right ministers had threatened to quit but later backed down.