Israel Plans To Build 3,300 New Settlement Homes. It Says It's A Response To A Palestinian Attack

Relatives of Matan Elmaliach, 26, react during his funeral in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Israel police said three Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the road near the settlement, killing Elmaliach and wounding at least eight; security forces on the site killed two of the gunmen, and a third was found during searches of the area afterwards and was detained. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Relatives of Matan Elmaliach, 26, react during his funeral in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Israel police said three Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the road near the settlement, killing Elmaliach and wounding at least eight; security forces on the site killed two of the gunmen, and a third was found during searches of the area afterwards and was detained. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel plans to build more than 3,300 new homes in settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in response to a fatal Palestinian shooting attack, a senior Cabinet minister said. The decision drew an angry response from the U.S. at a time of growing tensions over the course of Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's finance minister, far-right firebrand Bezalel Smotrich, announced the new settlement plans late Thursday, after three Palestinian gunmen opened fire on cars near the Maale Adumim settlement, killing one Israeli and wounding five.

“The serious attack on Ma’ale Adumim must have a determined security response but also a settlement response," Smotrich wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Our enemies know that any harm to us will lead to more construction and more development and more of our hold all over the country.”

He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant participated in the discussion. The decision will put in motion approval processes for 300 new homes in the Kedar settlement and 2,350 in Maale Adumim. It will also advance previously approved construction of nearly 700 homes in Efrat.

Once the war in Gaza is over, the Biden administration seeks eventual Palestinian governance in Gaza and the West Bank as a precursor to Palestinian statehood. It's an outcome opposed by Netanyahu and his right-wing government — and pushed farther from view, advocates say, as new settlement plans are advanced.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “disappointed” to hear of the Israeli announcement.

“It’s been longstanding U.S. policy under Republican and Democratic administrations alike that new settlements are counter-productive to reaching an enduring peace," he said in Buenos Aires. "They’re also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion and in our judgement this only weakens, it doesn’t strengthen, Israel’s security.”

The comments reversed the Trump administration's position that settlements did not violate international law. That stance, announced by then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, broke with four decades of U.S. policy.

Consecutive Israeli governments have expanded settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, war-won territories the Palestinians seek for a future state, along with Gaza. Construction has accelerated under Netanyahu’s current right-wing government, which includes settlers, including Smotrich, in key positions.

“Instead of acting in order to prevent future horrible attacks such as of yesterday, the government of Israel is acting to deepen the conflict and the tensions,” said Hagit Ofran, from Israeli settlement watchdog group Peace Now.

“The construction in settlements is bad for Israel, distancing us from peace and security,” she said.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war.

Violence has escalated in the West Bank since the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, which triggered Israel's war on the militant group.

Since Oct. 7, Palestinian gunmen have carried out several deadly attacks on Israelis. Israel has held the West Bank under a tight grip — limiting movement and conducting frequent raids against what it says are militant targets. Palestinian health officials say 401 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank during that period.

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AP correspondent Matthew Lee in Washington contributed reporting.