Israel to build at least 1,800 new settler homes

A watchdog said Israel aims to build 1,076 units in annexed East Jerusalem and 801 in the occupied West Bank

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Israel will construct more than 1,800 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Peace Now, the Israeli settlement watchdog, said on Friday.

The plan announced by the Israeli housing ministry looks to build 1,076 units in annexed east Jerusalem and 801 in the occupied West Bank, Lior Amihai, a Peace Now spokesman, said in comments carried by Agence France-Presse.

“The housing ministry announced the plans this morning,” he 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 added.

No immediate confirmation about the plan could be obtained from the Israeli ministry, AFP reported.

The announcement of the plan had been expected after Israel released 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners in December, part of a deal made last summer when Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed.

Meanwhile, a top Palestinian negotiator said the settlement construction plan is a signal to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry not to pursue his peace push.

“The new settlement construction plan is a message from [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to Kerry not to come back to the region to continue his efforts in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks,” Saeb Erakat said.

“Every time Kerry has stepped up his efforts, returning to the region [for more talks], Netanyahu has stepped up his efforts to destroy the peace process,” he said.

“Netanyahu is determined to destroy the two-state solution,” Erakat added.

Friday's announcement follows Kerry's recent visit to the region in his latest effort to reach a peace deal between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously issued construction announcements to blunt hardline criticism at home of prisoner releases as many of those released were convicted of killing Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Some 350,000 Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank, in addition to another 200,000 Israelis settled in occupied and annexed East Jerusalem, AFP said.

(With AFP)

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