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Israelis push settlement plans despite peace talks

Aug. 8, 2013 6:19 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 10, 2013 1:57 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli authorities have moved forward on giving final approval on plans to build nearly 1,000 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, an official told AFP on Thursday.

He said initial approval had been granted by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon several months ago and plans were now being made public so that any objections could be raised before the process moves to the next stage.

Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said the move applied to 920 new homes, while 166 units that had already been built without going through the necessary procedure were given the preliminary approval retroactively.

The total of 1,086 homes was spread across seven settlements, the NGO's Lior Amihai said.

This comes as US-brokered preparatory talks are under way between Israel and the PLO on resuming direct peace negotiations that have been stalled for nearly three years.

The PLO has demanded that Israel freeze settlement construction before returning to talks, but Israel has rejected any preconditions.

Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said on Thursday that settlement building was "the willful destruction of any chances of peace".

"If the US really wants peace they have to intervene immediately and effectively," she told AFP.

Peace Now's Amihai said the latest batch of approvals "showed the true intention of the government, putting a very heavy question mark on their intentions".

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