The Israeli military created a new authority to provide municipal services for settlers in Hebron, drawing accusations that Israel is moving closer to annexing parts of the volatile West Bank city.
The military order, signed last week, alters a 20-year-old agreement in Hebron's Old City, where several hundred ultranationalist settlers live in heavily guarded enclaves surrounded by tens of thousands of Palestinians.
While Israel maintained security control over the area under the 1997 agreement, municipal services to Palestinians and settlers were provided by the Palestinians.
The order, signed by Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, head of the military's Central Command, establishes a new "municipal services administration" for the Jewish neighborhood, the army said.
"By force of the order, an administration will be established to represent the residents of the Jewish neighborhood in Hebron and to provide them with municipal services in a variety of fields," it said.
The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as part of a future independent state. They say that all settlements are illegal, a position that has wide international backing.
Kamel Hmeid, the city's Palestinian governor, said the military's order favored settlers at the expense of the Palestinian population and was meant to deepen Israeli control.
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