NEWS: Israeli settlement expansion; Hamas’ mixed message on the West Bank

Peace talks do nothing to stop settlement growth

Israel received a lot of praise two years ago for forcibly removing some 9,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and ending 38-years of military rule of the 1.4 million Palestinians living there.

But, in the two years since Israel left Gaza, the number of settlers has continued to grow.

A quick look at official Israeli population figures shows that more than 20,000 new settlers have moved to the West Bank since Israel pulled out of Gaza.

This week, Peace Now released its latest report which shows a steady six percent annual growth in the settler population, which now stands at 267,500 (not including another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem). [complete article]

Top Hamas official: We’ll seize West Bank if Israel withdraws

The militant Islamic organization Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, would take over the West Bank if Israel pulled out of the territory, a senior Hamas leader said on Friday.

The comments by deposed Palestinian foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar contrasted with remarks by Ismail Haniyeh, who serves as prime minister of a Hamas-led government dismissed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Haniyeh said earlier this week that Hamas had no intention of repeating its Gaza takeover in the West Bank, where Abbas’ secular Fatah faction remains dominant. [complete article]

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