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A general view of the West Bank city of Hebron July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Monday approved building plans for 31 settler homes in Hebron in the West Bank, a spokeswoman said, a first such move in the Israeli-occupied area for some 15 years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has felt increased pressure for settlement expansion from the rightist flank of his coalition, though construction is not imminent as a bureaucratic process must still run its course.

His government has made numerous announcements of settlement building recently, angering Palestinians seeking a state on land Israel captured in a 1967 war but no longer eliciting serious U.S. criticism with President Donald Trump in the White House.

Still, settlement advocates say that despite a string of announcements for construction of thousands of settler homes in the West Bank, only a fraction might be built eventually.

Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank with a population of some 216,000. About 1,000 Israeli settlers live in the heart of the city, which for decades has been a focus of religious friction between Muslims and Jews.

Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now detailed the project's plans in an area of Hebron where the settlers live and its web site showed a graphic of what the prospective four-storey, stone-clad apartment block would look like.

It said that the last time settler homes were built in this area was in 2002.

Hadar Horen, a spokeswoman for the Israeli body that runs civilian affairs in the West Bank, could not confirm the details issued by Peace Now and said the planning committee decision would be published later.

(Writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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