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Israel approves plans for nearly 5,300 new homes in West Bank settlements

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Jerusalem, July 4: An Israeli anti-settlement monitoring group says the government has approved plans to build nearly 5,300 new homes in settlements in the occupied West Bank.
It is the latest move by Israel’s hard-line government to beef up the settlements as part of a strategy to cement Israel’s control over the West Bank and prevent the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
Peace Now says the government’s Higher Planning Council approved or advanced plans for 5,295 homes in dozens of settlements.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is dominated by settlers and their supporters. He has placed a former settler leader, Bezalel Smotrich, in charge of settlement policy.
COGAT, the Israeli defense body that oversees the planning council, referred questions to Netanyahu’s office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Israel’s Cabinet was to convene on Thursday to discuss Hamas’ latest response to a US-backed proposal for a phased cease-fire in Gaza, as diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the nine-month war stirred back to life after a weekslong hiatus.
Hezbollah fires more than 200 rockets into Israel
Fighting, meanwhile, intensified between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, with the militant group saying it fired more than 200 rockets and exploding drones into northern Israel to avenge the killing of a senior commander in an Israeli airstrike the day before.
The relatively low-level conflict has literally set the border ablaze and raised fears of a potentially even more devastating war in the Middle East. Hezbollah has said it will halt its attacks if there is a cease-fire between Hamas – a fellow Iran-backed ally – and Israel.
Netanyahu to dispatch negotiators to resume Gaza cease-fire talks
An Israeli official says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will dispatch negotiators to resume Gaza cease-fire talks.
The decision on Thursday comes a day after Hamas submitted a new response a a US-backed proposal for a phased cease-fire.
The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, says Netanyahu has decided to authorize a team to continue talks. There was no word on when or where the talks would talk place. (AP)

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