Tel Aviv approves railway linking central Israel, W. Bank

Move comes amid calls by right-wing Israeli groups to annex major West Bank settlement blocs
JERUSALEM: Israel has approved construction of a planned rail line that will link central Israel to the northern West Bank, local media reported Friday.
According to Israel’s Walla news website, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said the rail line would link the central Israeli cities of Petah Tikva and Rosh Hayin to the Jewish-only Ariel settlement bloc in the northern West Bank.
The project is expected to be completed by 2025 at a total cost of $1.1 billion.
It remains in the planning phase, however, with three different routes — of 29, 34 and 35 kilometers respectively — currently being considered.
Ariel is considered one of the largest West Bank settlement blocs, hosting over 20,000 Jewish settlers and a university attended by some 14,000 students.
Approval of the planned rail line comes amid calls by right-wing Israeli groups to annex major West Bank settlement blocs.
Roughly 600,000 Israelis currently live on more than 100 Jewish-only settlements built in the West Bank since Israel occupied the territory — along with East Jerusalem — in 1967.
The Palestinians, for their part, want these areas — along with the Gaza Strip — for a future state of their own.
International law continues to view the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories” and considers all Israeli settlement-building activity on the land as illegal.

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