|Israeli minister sees 50% more settlers in West Bank by 2019||
The number of settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank could grow by as much as 50 percent by 2019, Israel's ultra-nationalist construction minister said on Friday.
According to Reuters, construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, a member of the hardline Jewish Home party in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative coalition government, said the negotiations on Palestinian statehood were in their "dying throes" and predicted the settler population would spiral.
"I think that in five years there will be 550,000 or 600,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria, rather than 400,000 (now)," he told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM, using a biblical term for the West Bank, which many Israelis see as a religious birthright and security bulwark.
Most world powers deem the Israeli settlements illegal.
Ariel put the number of Israelis in East Jerusalem at between 300,000 and 350,000. Some 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas which, along with the Gaza Strip, Israel captured in a 1967 war.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of their future state and blamed settlement expansions for the breakdown last month of U.S.-mediated peace talks with Israel - a position supported in part by Washington, but rejected by the Israelis.
Palestinians killed on Nakba Day
Meanwhile, Israeli troops killed two young Palestinians in a Nakba Day protest near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday, officials said.
The two protesters, Musaab Nuwarah, 20, and Mohammed Udeh, 17, were shot and fatally wounded. They later died in a hospital in Ramallah, medical officials said, according to media reports.
They were shot in the chest by Israeli troops during a demonstration marking the 66th anniversary of the Nakba Day, or the Day of catastrophe.
The Israeli occupation authorities destroyed a number of Palestinian properties in the occupied city of Jerusalem on the Nakba day Thursday.
Palestinian resident Um Amin Shqirat told the local news agency Quds Net that she returned from the clinic to find the Israeli bulldozers razing her 140m-house, where a 12-member family lived.
The occupation authorities destroyed the 55m-shop store and a commercial shop in the city. They also destroyed an aluminium workshop in the Rasul-Amoud neighborhood.
Every year on May 15, Palestinians all over the world hold demonstrations to commemorate Nakba, which marks the anniversary of the forcible eviction of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland by Israeli troops in 1948.
On May 15, 1948, Israeli forces displaced some 750,000 Palestinians, forcing them to flee to different neighboring countries.
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