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Israel approves 90 new settlement units, group says

Feb. 11, 2013 2:51 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 13, 2013 3:17 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli government has granted approval for 90 new settlement units in the West Bank, an Israeli peace group said Monday.

The plan for the housing units in Beit El settlement received final validation on Sunday, but had been approved in August 2012 as part of a compensation plan for settlers evicted from the Ulpana neighborhood, settlement watch director Peace Now Hagit Ofran told Ma'an.

"Netanyahu chose to take advantage of the time before forming a coalition government to establish more facts on the ground," Ofran said.

Construction of the homes in the Ramallah-area settlement can legally begin on Wednesday.

"The Palestinian position is clear. There can be no negotiation while settlement continues," Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, said in response to the new Beit El construction.

Israel's Supreme Court ruled last year that Ulpana neighborhood had been built illegally on Palestinian-owned land, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising to build 300 new homes as part of the evacuation deal.

The court had ruled that five Ulpana apartment blocs must be torn down by July 1, but then granted the state a four-month extension to demolish the properties.

The 30 families who lived in the buildings had already moved out to nearby temporary accommodation.

There are now more than 325,000 settlers in the West Bank, with a further 200,000 living in East Jerusalem.

The United Nations deems all Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal.

Reuters contributed to this report
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