Israel’s defence minister has approved plans for the building of a new illegal settlement in the heart of the flashpoint city of Hebron, drawing sharp criticism from Palestinian officials.
The defence ministry said on Sunday that Naftali Bennett had instructed departments responsible for the occupied West Bank “to notify the Hebron municipality of planning a new Jewish neighbourhood in the wholesale market complex”, according to local media reports.
The market area is on Hebron’s once-bustling Shuhada Street, the Old City’s main commercial artery. It has been shut down by the Israeli army since 1994, forcing many businesses to close.
Palestinians, who have long demanded that it be reopened, have been banned from accessing the street.
Hebron is holy to both Muslims and Jews and is a flashpoint for clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, who are heavily guarded and usually protected by armed Israeli soldiers.
On Saturday, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian teenager southwest of Hebron, with the army saying he was one of the three people throwing petrol bombs at a military vehicle.
The incident occurred near the entrance of a settlement, according to local media reports, where Palestinian medics were barred from entering.
Hebron Mayor Taysir Abu Sneineh warned that the “dangerous” decision by the defence ministry would lead to escalations in the “entire region”, Wafa news agency said.
He added that the Hebron municipality, under instructions from the Palestinian leadership, will exert “all its efforts” to protect Palestinian land and preserve the property and presence of its citizens.