Israel’s High Planning Committee of the Defense Ministry’s West Bank Civil Administration approved on Monday the advancement of plans for the construction of over 5,000 new housing units at the Eli settlement and others across the West Bank such at Maale Adumim and Beitar Elit.

The move comes despite warnings from Washington. The US State Department said it was "deeply troubled" by the Israeli plan, and "concerned by reports of changes to Israel’s system of settlement administration that expedite the planning and approvals of settlements."

The Benjamin Netanyahu government brushed off these warnings, granting a first-stage approval. Last week, the government shortened the construction approval process for settlements and wildcat outposts, but plans for the new housing still need at least one more approval. The committee also approved an urban master plan for Eli.

Netanyahu announced his decision to advance the construction of new homes in the Eli settlement last Wednesday, shortly after the attack outside the Eli settlement. Two Palestinian assailants arrived in a car. They fired first at the guard stationed at the entrance of the settlement and then at bystanders at a gas station just outside the village. 

"Our answer to terrorism is to strike it hard and build our country,” said Netanyahu, announcing the approval for the construction of new housing units at the settlement. The decision was made jointly with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also serves as deputy defense minister.

Four Israeli civilians were killed at Eli last week by two Palestinian gunmen. The buildings approved for Eli will be considered new neighborhoods of the settlement. Their construction will legalize two wildcat outposts — Hayovel and Nof Harim — in their vicinity.

Even before Netanyahu's announcement, Gallant ordered the Israel Defense Forces to revoke working permits in Israel for dozens of relatives of the two Palestinian attackers. The IDF was also instructed to prepare the homes of the two attackers for demolition.

The plans for the advancement of the new housing units were announced last week, before the Eli attack. The US State Department said at the time it was "deeply troubled" by the move, calling on Israel to return to dialogue aimed to de-escalate tensions in the region.

"As has been longstanding policy, the United States opposes such unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve and are an obstacle to peace," said a statement issued by State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Israel’s Channel 12 and Haaretz reported last week on the establishment of several new wildcat outposts across the West Bank following the Eli attack, carried out with the knowledge of political circles and without interference by the army.

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