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Israel announces more than 1,800 new settler homes

Jan. 10, 2014 12:11 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 12, 2014 11:53 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel announced plans on Friday to build more than 1,800 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, settlement watchdog Peace Now said.

The housing ministry announced the plans for 1,076 units in annexed East Jerusalem and 801 in the occupied West Bank, Peace Now spokesman Lior Amihai told AFP.

"The housing ministry announced the plans this morning," Amihai said.

"Many of the units will be built in existing settlements such as Efrat and Ariel in the West Bank, and Ramat Shlomo, Ramot and Pisgat Zeev in east Jerusalem," he said.

The ministry could not be immediately reached for confirmation.

The report comes a week after US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the region in his latest effort to push Israeli and Palestinian leaders towards an elusive peace deal.

Israeli settlement building on occupied Palestinian territory is a key obstacle and derailed the last round of direct talks in 2010.

Walla news site reported that the announcement was originally scheduled for last week, but was postponed due to the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Three days before Israel released 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners in late December, military radio said that Israel planned to announce the construction of 1,400 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank to coincide with the prisoner release.

The Palestinian negotiating team resigned in protest against continued Israeli settlement construction in mid-November, dealing a major blow to negotiations between Israel and the PLO that had already been stalled.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
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