Israel passed a law on Monday, February 6 retroactively legalising about 4,000 settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, a measure that has drawn international concern, Reuters reports.
The legislation has been condemned by Palestinians as a blow to their hopes of statehood. But its passage may only be largely symbolic as it contravenes Israeli Supreme Court rulings on property rights.
Israel’s attorney-general has said it is unconstitutional and that he will not defend it at the Supreme Court.
Though the legislation, passed by a vote of 60 to 52, was backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition, it has raised tensions in the government.
A White House official said that, given the new law is expected to face challenges in Israeli courts, the Trump administration “will withhold comment on the legislation until the relevant court ruling.”
Political sources have said Netanyahu privately opposes the bill over concerns it could provide grounds for prosecution by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington would oppose any such international legal action.
But the far-right Jewish Home party, a member of the coalition looking to draw voters from the traditional base of Netanyahu’s Likud, pushed for the legislation after the forced evacuation of 330 settlers last week from an outpost built on private Palestinian land.
With Netanyahu under police investigation on suspicion of abuse of office, an allegation he denies, Likud has been slipping in opinion polls. Opposing the law would have risked alienating his supporters and ceding ground to Jewish Home.
Last-minute appeals this week by Netanyahu to postpone the vote until after he meets U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on Feb 15, were refused by Jewish Home, political sources said.
Gaza Hit After Rocket Fired into Israel
Separately, Israel carried out a series of strikes against the Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Monday, February 6, after a rocket fired from the enclave hit a border area, AFP reports.
Three Palestinians were injured in around a dozen Israeli strikes throughout the day, including in Gaza City, medical sources in the Hamas-run territory said.
Two Hamas posts were targeted by Israeli tank fire in the late morning, a Palestinian security source said, and air strikes hit targets in northern Gaza, sending a column of black smoke into the sky, an AFP reporter said.
Later at least five air strikes hit Gaza City, while one struck Khan Yunis in the south.
The strikes came after a rocket was fired earlier on Monday from Gaza and hit an open area along the Israeli border, causing no injuries.
“The (army) targeted these locations in response to the projectile fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities earlier today and the attack against (Israeli) forces operating near the border with the southern Gaza Strip,” an Israeli military statement said.
“Hamas is accountable for the unacceptable aggression that threatens the wellbeing of Israelis and breaches Israeli sovereignty,” spokesman Peter Lerner said in the statement.
Hamas accused Israel of risking a new round of conflict.
“This Israeli escalation in Gaza is dangerous and must be stopped,” spokesman Fawzy Barhum told AFP.
Before Monday, the most recent rocket fire from Gaza into Israel occurred in October.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
Since the last round in 2014, a fragile ceasefire along the largely closed border has been observed.
Missiles and rockets are occasionally fired at Israel but such attacks often attributed to other Islamist groups inside impoverished Gaza.
The Israeli military usually retaliates against the positions of Hamas, which it holds responsible for the territory.