Israeli settlers to resume West Bank construction
JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli settlers in the West Bank said Wednesday that they will break a government freeze on construction in their communities to protest a Palestinian shooting attack that killed four Israelis on the eve of new peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians in Washington.
The Israelis were killed Tuesday evening when they drove through the West Bank as a new round of Mideast talks opened in Washington.
The Yesha Council, which represents the settlers, said in a statement that construction will resume at 6 p.m. local time Wednesday.
“This attack again proved that despite what might be going on in Washington right now, the Palestinians have no goal to create a peaceful state for themselves but are entirely driven to destroy our State and our people,” Naftali Bennett, Yesha director said. “We will start work this evening and build all across Judea and Samaria,” Bennet told Israel radio, calling the West Bank by its Biblical name.
Israel imposed a 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements in an effort to get negotiations with the Palestinians back on track.
The moratorium expires on Sept. 26 and the Palestinians say they will withdraw from talks unless it is extended.
Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and Jewish settlers began building communities in the territory soon after. There are over 100 settlements in the West Bank today. The future of settlements is one of the toughest issues Israel and Palestinians will have to reconcile in the new round of peace talks.
Palestinians want the West Bank along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem as part of their future state.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Tuesday evening that Palestinian gunmen opened fire at a vehicle traveling near Hebron – a volatile city that has been a flash point of violence in the past. Some 500 ultranationalist Jewish settlers live in heavily fortified enclaves in the city amid more than 100,000 Palestinians.
Israel’s national rescue service said the victims were two men and two women. It gave no further details. Israeli media reported that one of the women was pregnant and that the dead ranged in age from mid-20s to mid-40s. The reports said everyone in the car was killed.
The Islamic militant group Hamas took responsibility for the attack calling it “heroic” and vowed that more would follow.
Hamas is responsible for dozens of suicide bombings in Israel, and considered a terrorist group by the U.S., Israel and European Union.
Hamas ousted Abbas’ forces from Gaza in bloody street battles in 2007. Abbas has been trying to limit the Islamic militants’ reach in the West Bank, jailing activists and even cracking down on mosque preachers.
The attack came as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in the U.S. capital meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s office issued a statement condemning the attack saying it was aimed at undermining his government’s effort to build international support for “the Palestinian position and ending the (Israeli) occupation.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack saying “terror will not determine Israel’s borders or the future of the settlements.”