JERUSALEM — Israel’s new defense minister has ordered plans for new settler housing in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron.

In a letter sent to defense officials Sunday, pro-settler Defense Minister Naftali Bennett called for “planning processes to be advanced” for new Jewish settler housing.

Enlarging the Jewish population in Hebron is likely to deepen tensions there.

Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank. It is also a constant flashpoint for violence, where a few hundred Jewish settlers live in heavily secured enclaves among tens of thousands of Palestinians.

The announcement is a preliminary step and it could take years before building commences.

Bennett’s letter comes weeks after the U.S. declared it no longer considers Israel’s West Bank settlements to be a violation of international law.

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