West Bank Jewish settler population soars: settlers

AFP , Tuesday 16 Sep 2014

Israeli Settlements
Palestinian labourers work on a construction site in the Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem September 10, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank numbered 382,031 at the end of June, up from 374,469 six months earlier, the leading settler organisation said on Tuesday.

The number does not include annexed east Jerusalem, which Israel has declared to be an integral part of the Jewish state and an inseparable component of its capital. Around 200,000 Israelis live in the eastern Arab sector of the city.

The Yesha council said in a statement that the two percent growth in the first six months of the year translated to more than double the rate inside Israel of 1.9 percent annually.

The largest settlement, it said, was Beitar Illit, southwest of Jerusalem, with 63,087 residents.

Israel's settlement building, which is illegal under international law, is seen as an obstacle to any lasting peace with the Palestinians, who want their future state to be on land much of which Israel has annexed or built settlements on.

Last month, Israel announced plans to expropriate 400 hectares (988 acres) of Palestinian land in the Bethlehem area, its biggest land grab in the occupied territory in three decades.

The move brought strong international condemnation and a warning from Finance Minister Yair Lapid that Israel's settlement policy was eroding its international support.

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