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Israel plans new settler homes in flashpoint West Bank city

December 1, 2019 GMT
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, visit an Israeli army base in the Golan Heights, on the Israeli-Syrian border. Bennett is ordering plans for new settler housing in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron. In a letter sent by his office to defense officials Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, Israel’s new pro-settler defense minister called for “planning processes to be advanced” for new Jewish settler housing. (Atef Safadi/Pool via AP, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, visit an Israeli army base in the Golan Heights, on the Israeli-Syrian border. Bennett is ordering plans for new settler housing in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron. In a letter sent by his office to defense officials Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, Israel’s new pro-settler defense minister called for “planning processes to be advanced” for new Jewish settler housing. (Atef Safadi/Pool via AP, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s new defense minister has ordered plans for new settler housing in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron.

In a letter sent to defense officials Sunday, pro-settler Defense Minister Naftali Bennett called for “planning processes to be advanced” for new Jewish settler housing.

Enlarging the Jewish population in Hebron is likely to deepen tensions there.

Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank. It is also a constant flashpoint for violence, where a few hundred Jewish settlers live in heavily secured enclaves among tens of thousands of Palestinians.

The announcement is a preliminary step and it could take years before building commences.

Bennett’s letter comes weeks after the U.S. declared it no longer considers Israel’s West Bank settlements to be a violation of international law.