Israel has approved plans for about 5,300 new homes in West Bank settlements.

JERUSALEM (AP) – The Israeli government has approved plans to build about 5,300 new homes in settlements in the occupied West Bank, a monitoring group said Thursday, the latest in a settlement expansion drive that has The aim is to strengthen Israeli control over the area. Preventing the establishment of a future Palestinian state.

Word of the decision came as diplomatic efforts aimed at ending The Nine Months War After a week's hiatus, Gaza seemed to be bustling with life again. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he had decided to send negotiators to resume talks. A day earlier, the militant Hamas group delivered its latest response to a US-backed proposal for a deal to mediators.

Fighting between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah intensified, with the militant group saying on Thursday it had fired more shots than it had. 200 rockets and exploding drones In northern Israel for revenge The death of a senior commander In the Israeli airstrike a day ago.

The exchange is literally months set fire to the border between Israel and Lebanon and created fear. A potentially even more devastating war in the Middle East. Hezbollah has said. If there is a ceasefire, he will stop his attacks. between Hamas – an Iranian-backed ally – and Israel.

Israel's turbocharged settlement campaign threatens to fuel further tensions in the West Bank, which has seen an increase in violence since the war in Gaza began on October 7.

Israel's anti-settlement monitor Peace Now said the government's top planning council had approved or advanced 5,295 housing projects in dozens of West Bank settlements. It also “legitimized” three informal outposts as new neighborhoods in existing settlements near the Jordan Valley and the city of Hebron.

Peace Now said on Wednesday that Israel had approved. The biggest land grab in the West Bank in three decades. COGAT, the Israeli defense agency that oversees the Planning Council, referred questions to Netanyahu's office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Netanyahu's government is dominated by settlers and their supporters. The hard-line nationalist finance minister, Basil Smutrich, himself a settler, has been put in charge of settlement policy and has said his rapid expansion drive is aimed at ensuring that a Palestinian state is not created. could Increasingly during the past months, settlers have performed. More than a thousand attacks on Palestinianscausing death, damage to property and in some cases prompting Palestinians to flee their villages.

Palestinians are seeking an independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza – territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

The new housing approvals could also push Israel's ally, the United States, which has spoken out against the settlements, though it has done little to pressure Israel on the issue.

Gaza's Health Ministry said on Thursday that the number of Palestinians killed by Israel's campaign in Gaza has exceeded 38,000. The ministry does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. The war began when Hamas-led militants launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing nearly 1,200 people and Kidnapped another 250 people..

The resumption of ceasefire talks marks another attempt by US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators to bridge the gap that has repeatedly stalled a deal over the past months. Hamas wants a deal that would ensure the Israeli army's complete withdrawal from Gaza and an end to the war. Netanyahu says that the war cannot end before the end of Hamas.

Israeli negotiators are expected to arrive in Qatar's capital Doha for talks with American, Egyptian and Qatari officials.

A senior Biden administration official said the White House viewed the resumption of talks as a “progress” that “moves the process forward” while cautioning that much work remains to be done.

Netanyahu spoke with President Joe Biden on Thursday. Netanyahu's office said he told Biden that Israel is “committed to ending the war only after achieving all of its objectives” — a reference to the two war goals of rescuing the hostages and destroying Hamas.

Biden made it clear to Netanyahu that “it's time to close the deal,” said the administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the 30-minute call.

United States A project has gained global support behind it. For a phased cease-fire in Gaza that calls for the release of all hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a lasting cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

So far, neither side has fully accepted it.

Last month, Hamas proposed “modifications” to the proposal, some of which the US said were unworkable. The conversation on the ground stops. After the US presented a new version, Hamas said on Wednesday it had sent a new response to Egypt and Qatar. Hamas political official Bassem Na'im said the group “responded with some ideas” to bridge the gap between the two sides, without elaborating.

For its part, Netanyahu has given a contradictory position. He has said that Israel stands by the proposal outlined by Biden. In a speech on May 31. But in a TV interview last month, he said he was ready to make just one. “Partial agreement,” and the war will continue. “After a pause.”

At its core, the US proposal calls for a three-phase process.

The first phase will see a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all densely populated areas of Gaza, and the release of several hostages in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including women, the elderly and the wounded. . After some hostages were released during a November ceasefire, the militants are still holding about 80 hostages and the remains of 40 others.

During the 42 days of the first phase, the parties will negotiate the terms of the second phase.

The talks aim to lead to a “durable peace” and the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Gaza – in exchange for the Israeli release of Palestinian prisoners and the release of all remaining male Hamas hostages. The third phase will see the return of the remains of the hostages.

A change from first to second phase is visible. Important sticking point.

Hamas fears that Israel will resume the war after the first phase, perhaps after making unrealistic demands in negotiations. Israeli officials have said they want the talks to result in the removal of Hamas from power in Gaza – a clause not included in the proposal. They have called for a time limit for negotiations to keep pressure on Hamas and prevent it from negotiating and an early ceasefire.

The US administration official indicated that Hamas had moved away from its position of demanding guarantees of a permanent cease-fire in order to initiate a three-phase agreement. The official said Hamas' response indicates that it has “a good understanding of what has to happen” to move from the first phase to the second.


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Chehib reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Abby Sewell in Beirut and Amir Madani in Washington contributed to this report.


Follow AP's coverage of the war in Gaza.

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