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Peace Now: Israeli settlement construction in Jerusalem accelerated since Annapolis

March 31, 2008 11:36 A.M. (Updated: March 31, 2008 11:36 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Construction in Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in greater Jerusalem has accelerated since the Annapolis international conference last November, a report by the Israeli group Peace Now issued on Monday says.

Peace Now's Settlement Watch Team reports that despite a pledge by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to freeze settlement construction in November, settlement construction has continued, and accelerated in Jerusalem.

"In Jerusalem we do see an increase in new tenders and in promotion of new plans," said Hagit Ofran, a settlement monitor for Peace Now.

"I hope Prime Minister Olmert was serious and sincere, but he did not do anything to make sure [the freeze] works," Ofran added.

Outside of Jerusalem, construction took place in 101 settlements since last August, including at least 220 already in-progress buildings, the report says. Work began on at least 275 new buildings.

In the four months since the Annapolis summit, which was intended to restart peace talks between Israel and Palestine, Israel issued tenders for the construction of 747 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem. Plans for another 3,648 housing units were submitted to the public for objection, an important final stage of review before construction is approved.

Peace Now says these plans and others represent an acceleration of settlement activity in Jerusalem over the first 11 months of 2007, when no plans were submitted to the public, and only two plans for 391 units were approved.

The Settlement Watch Team asked the Israeli Civil Administration, which governs parts of the occupied West Bank, about its response to illegal building in one articular outpost, in the Palestinian village of Al-Khadr, near Bethlehem. The Civil Administration acknowledged the illegality of the construction, but reportedly did nothing. "Construction blatantly continued before the very eyes of the Palestinian landowners who could do nothing about it," the report said.

Yesha, the Israeli settler council, denied Peace Now's report saying, "The government's decision to freeze settlements is being completely implemented."

***Updated at 11:22am Bethlehem time
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