The governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK have called on Israel to drop its plans to build hundreds of new houses illegally in an area of the occupied West Bank which would isolate a Palestinian neighbourhood.
“We urge the government of Israel to reverse its decision to advance the construction of 540 settlement units in the Har Homa E area of the occupied West Bank,” the European countries said in a statement on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the EU’s foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano also warned that the settlement and another in the Givat Hamatos area would “cut off” Bethlehem from East Jerusalem, which the international community recognises as Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Stano also said the European bloc “reiterates its firm condemnation of violence and calls for calm and restraint”.
The comments come after Israel announced last month that the Israeli government plans to build homes in Har Homa and a further 2,000 in nearby Givat Hamatos.
The planned expansions of the two Israeli settlements are particularly controversial as they would separate the Palestinian neighbourhood of Beit Safafa from the rest of the West Bank.
This week the territory has seen several bouts of violence as tensions rise over Israeli settlements.
In the northern West Bank on Monday, Israeli settlers raided a Palestinian village, hurling stones and lighting fires. Police arrested 11 Palestinians and four people were injured by rubber bullets.
The attack was reported to be revenge for a Palestinian drive-by shooting in the area which injured three Israelis on Sunday.
Israeli settlers have been known to carry out so-called “price tag” attacks on Palestinian communities in response to violence against settlers.
The United Nations last month warned that violence, including assaults and property destruction, by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank has increased substantially in recent months.
During the first three months of 2021, more than 210 incidents of violence by settlers were recorded, including the death of one Palestinian, it said.
The violence has been mainly intended to “intimidate and terrorise Palestinians”, and prevent them from accessing their land while pushing others to move.
Confrontations broke out in another village in the northern West Bank late Sunday during an Israeli military raid.
The Palestinian health ministry said five people were wounded by live ammunition in the village of Beita.
The military said troops entered the village to search for suspected attackers after the shooting and that Palestinians hurled rocks and firebombs at the soldiers who responded by opening fire.