Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron will now be considered residents of an "official" settlement, altering previous agreements regarding their status, according to an Israeli government statement issued Tuesday.
Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had upgraded the entire area's status, making it eligible to receive the same services that the Israeli authorities provide to other West Bank settlements.
After the 1994 Oslo Accords, Hebron was the only occupied West Bank city in which Israeli troops remained until 1997. In that year, they withdrew from 80 percent of Hebron as part of an agreement that reserved 20 percent of the historically Arab city for Israeli settlers.
Under the agreement, these settlers were to be provided with basic services by the Palestinian-run Hebron municipality -- but the new change in status granted by Lieberman alters this arrangement. Israel maintains a strong military presence around Hebron's Old City with the ostensible aim of protecting settlers. This causes friction with Palestinian residents, who are forbidden from using many of the city's main roads. International law views all Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in 1967, as illegal.