JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has approved the largest seizure of land in the occupied West Bank in over three decades and advanced plans to build thousands of new settlement homes, according to Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement monitoring group. They are the latest steps by Israel’s hard-line government meant to cement Israel’s control over the territory and prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

This map shows the expansion of settlements and outposts from 1967 until now.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians seek all three areas for their future state. In 56 years, Israel has built well over 100 settlements scattered across the West Bank. Settlers also have built scores of tiny unauthorized outposts that are tolerated or even encouraged by the government. Some are later legalized.

The international community considers the settlements illegal or illegitimate, and the Palestinians say they are the main barrier to a lasting peace agreement.

But with more than 500,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, it will be difficult – some say impossible – to partition the territory as part of a two-state solution.

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Diehl reported from Seattle.

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