JERUSALEM, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Israel's military gave an official "settlement" status to the Jewish settler community in the West Bank city of Hebron, a military spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.
The move aims at strengthening the settlers in the flashpoint Palestinian city.
Head of the Central Command, Major General Roni Numa, signed a military order establishing a municipal services administration for the settlers.
The order was signed following a decision by Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to upgrade the status of the settler community in the area.
The move means the community would now be eligible to receive the same services that the Israeli authorities provide to other settlements in the West Bank.
Local media quoted Lieberman saying he is "determined to continue to promote settlement so that it will flourish and thrive, and I will do so with responsibility and discretion."
The Israel settlement watchdog group Peace Now denounced the move, saying in a statement that "by granting an official status to the Hebron settlers, the Israeli government is formalizing the apartheid system in the city."
Hebron, one of the most tensed cities in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is home to some 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Jewish settlers who live there in a heavily guarded enclave.
The settlements are located on lands which Israel seized during the 1967 Middle East war. The international community has repeatedly condemned the settlements as a breach of international law and a hurdle to peace.