Israel plans 2,500 new settlement homes in occupied West Bank

JERUSALEM, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Israel announced plans on Tuesday for 2,500 more settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, the second such declaration since U.S. President Donald Trump took office signaling he would be less critical of such projects than his predecessor.

A statement from the Defence Ministry, which administers lands Israel captured in a 1967 war, said the move was meant to fulfill demand for new housing "to maintain regular daily life."

Related: Life inside Israeli settlements

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A Jewish man covered in a prayer shawl, prays in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank December 18, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Israeli teenagers rest in a tent as they prepare for an expected eviction of the Jewish settlement outpost of Amona in the West Bank, December 9, 2016 REUTERS/Amir Cohen
A construction site is seen in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, in the occupied West Bank December 22, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Houses are seen in the Jewish settlement of Har Gilo, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Israeli soldiers are seen next to a bus stop covered with posters from the Israeli branch of the U.S. Republican party campaign in favour of Donald Trump, near the West Bank Jewish Settlement of Ariel October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Palestinian labourer works at a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Houses in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev are seen from the Israeli settlement of Givon Ha'hadasha (bottom), in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A general view shows a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Israeli youths build a wooden structure in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona, in the West Bank November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Palestinian labourers work at a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Students do pull-ups as they train at the Bnei David academy, the first religious military prep school and Jewish seminary, in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Eli, south of Nablus, January 31, 2016. Picture taken on January 31, 2016. To match Special Report ISRAEL-MILITARY/RELIGION REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
A Palestinian labourer walks at a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A man pushes a shopping cart outside Shufersal, Israel's largest supermarket chain, in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Mishor Adumim near Jerusalem May 5, 2013. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/Files Photo
A Palestinian labourer works at a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Houses are seen in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev (bottom) with the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the backgraund, in the occupied West Bank, December 29, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A worker walks on scaffoldings in a construction site at the Israeli settlement of Har Homa, in the occupied West Bank December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A general view shows a Star of David near buildings in the Israeli settlement of Maale Edumim, in the occupied West Bank December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Israelis are seen near a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Ramat Shlomo, in the occupied West Bank December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A Palestinian labourer prays during his lunch break at Aluminum Construction, a factory located in the Industrial Park of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, February 3, 2016. Picture taken February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
A construction worker labours on a building in the Israeli settlement of Maale Edumim, in the occupied West Bank December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Bulidings can be seen under construction in the Israeli settlement of Maale Edumim, in the occupied West Bank December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Bulidings under construction are seen in the Israeli settlement of Maale Edumim, in the occupied West Bank, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A Palestinian man rides a donkey near the Israeli settlement of Maale Edumim, in the occupied West Bank, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Israeli boys from the Ziv family play outside their home in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank, November 22, 2016. Picture taken November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Houses are seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim as the Palestinian village of Al-Eizariya is seen in the background May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
An Israeli boy looks through the sight of a weapon during a display of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) equipment and abilities at the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, April 23, 2015, during celebrations for Israel's Independence Day, marking the 67th anniversary of the creation of the state. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Elad Ziv prepares food in his home in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank, November 22, 2016. Picture taken November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Israeli youths push a water tank as they construct a temporary barrier in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Players from Israeli soccer clubs affiliated with Israel Football Association, Ariel Municipal Soccer Club and Maccabi HaSharon Netanya, play against each other at Ariel Municipal Soccer Club's training grounds in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel September 23, 2016. Picture taken September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Israeli youths use a tractor as they build wooden structures in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona, in the West Bank November 29, 2016. The sticker on the tractor in Hebrew reads:, "For the second time, Amona will not fall" REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Israeli teenagers walk on graffiti reading in Hebrew "Soldier, policeman, refuse orders" as they prepare for an expected eviction of the Jewish settlement outpost of Amona in the West Bank, December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Palestinian labourers work at Aluminum Construction, a factory located in the Industrial Park of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, February 3, 2016. Picture taken February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Israeli men stand next to a structure with Hebrew graffiti reading "over Judea and Samaria, there will be war" in the early morning in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
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Most of the construction, it said, would be in existing settlement blocs that Israel intends to keep under any future peace agreement with the Palestinians. However, a breakdown provided by the prime minister's office showed large portions of the planned homes would be outside existing blocs.

About 350,000 settlers live in the West Bank and a further 200,000 in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war. Beyond the major blocs, most of which are close to the border with Israel, there are more than 100 settlement outposts scattered across hilltops in the West Bank.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the Israeli announcement and said it would have "consequences."

"The decision will hinder any attempt to restore security and stability, it will reinforce extremism and terrorism and will place obstacles in the path of any effort to start a peace process that will lead to security and peace," he said.

They want the West Bank and Gaza Strip, from which Israeli troops and settlers withdrew in 2005, for an independent state, with its capital in East Jerusalem.

SEE ALSO: UN Security Council demands end to Israel settlement building, US abstains from vote

Most countries consider settlements illegal and an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace as they reduce and fragment the territory Palestinians need for a viable state.

Israel disagrees, citing biblical, historical and political connections to the land - which the Palestinians also assert - as well as security interests.

During the U.S. election campaign, Trump indicated he would dispense with former President Barack Obama's opposition to settlement building, a stance that delighted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

On Sunday, two days after Trump's inauguration, Israel announced plans for hundreds of new homes in East Jerusalem, and the right-wing Netanyahu told senior ministers he was lifting restrictions on settlement construction across the board.

"We can build where we want and as much as we want," an official quoted Netanyahu as telling the ministers.

Following Tuesday's announcement, the prime minister's office listed some of the West Bank areas slated for new construction, but not all were in settlement blocs.

"I have agreed with the defense minister to build 2,500 new homes in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) - we are building and will continue to build," Netanyahu said in a tweet. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is himself a settler.

The Defence Ministry statement said 100 of the new homes would be in Beit El, a settlement which according to Israeli media has received funding from the family of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

David Friedman, a staunch supporter of Israeli settlers who Trump has nominated to be his ambassador to Israel, has served as president of the American Friends of Beit El, a group that raises funds for the settlement.

It was not immediately clear whether Tuesday's announcement was the first in relation to the new construction. There are several stages involved in approving and building settlement homes and announcements frequently overlap or are reissued. (Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Luke Baker and Mark Heinrich)

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