JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a $12.9 million plan to strengthen two Israeli settlements in the southern West Bank Sunday. The plan came days after Netanyahu approved the construction of hundreds of new homes in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, drawing a harsh rebuke from the U.S. State Department.
In late June a Palestinian teen fatally stabbed Israeli Hallel Yaffa Ariel, 13, in her bed in the Kiryat Arba settlement before security guards killed him. Netanyahu said Sunday that the funding will go to Kiryat Arba, a settlement of 7,000 Israelis, and to the Jewish residents of the adjacent Palestinian city of Hebron.
He said the government will "assist the residents who stand heroically in the face of vicious terrorism."
Since September, Palestinians have killed 34 Israelis and two visiting Americans in dozens of attacks. At least 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the same period. Israel says most were assailants.
The day after the fatal stabbing, a suspected Palestinian gunman shot at Israelis driving on a West Bank road south of Hebron. A father of 10 died and his wife and daughter were wounded.
On Saturday, a gunman shot and wounded an Israeli traveling in a car north of Hebron, according to the Israeli military.
Last week Netanyahu authorized hundreds of new homes for Israelis in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a response to Palestinian violence.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 war. The Palestinians and most of the international community opposes settlement construction in these areas, where the Palestinians hope to establish an independent state
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby criticized the authorization of new homes last week as "fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution."