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Australia, UK and Canada urge Israel to reverse approval of new West Bank settlements

In a joint statement on Saturday, the Australian, Canadian and United Kingdom Foreign Ministers urged Israel to reverse its decision to expand settlements in the West Bank. They also expressed concern about the surge of violent attacks in the West Bank and the decreasing prospects for peace agreements between Palestine and Israel. The Israeli government approved over 5,700 new settlement units in the West Bank region of Palestine this week following recent changes to expedite the process for approval of new settlement construction.

“The continued expansion of settlements is an obstacle to peace and negatively impacts efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution. We call on the Government of Israel to reverse these decisions,” the joint statement said.

The statement condemned the continued violence in Israel resulting in seven deaths and over 91 injuries that followed a military raid in a Jenin refugee camp last week, and the retaliatory attack on a settlement in Eli by two Palestinian gunmen that killed killed four people.

The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, briefed the United Nations Security Council on the increased violence in the West Bank, stating that violence against civilians in settlements and the absence of political resolution are “rapidly eroding hope among Palestinians and Israelis”.

“The choice is clear: either continue along the downward spiral of violence and provocations leading to a political vacuum or turn towards constructive dialogue linked to concrete actions that can create hope and a political horizon,” Wennesland said.

The settlement of Israeli civilians in occupied Palestinian territory, resulting in the displacement of local populations, contravenes international humanitarian law. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies,” and prohibits “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory.”

The West Bank, which has been occupied by Israeli authorities since 1967, has been the subject of ongoing conflict due to its cultural and religious significance to both Israel and Palestine. In February, the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority committed to work towards a peace agreement, where the Israeli government agreed to cease the construction of further settlement units for four months.

Article: Australia, UK and Canada urge Israel to reverse approval of new West Bank settlements

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