Israel to build hundreds of W.Bank settler homes: Media

AFP , Thursday 13 Jun 2013

Israel seeks approval for plans to build 538 new settler homes in Itamar, 550 in Bruchin and legalize existing units

Israel is seeking approval for hundreds of settler homes in the northern West Bank settlements of Itamar and Bruchin, Israel media reported on Thursday.

The Jerusalem Post said that plans to build 538 new homes in Itamar and legalise 137 existing units were submitted to regional planning authorities this week.

Haaretz daily put the numbers at 537 and 130 respectively.

The Post said that also submitted for review were plans for 550 new homes in Bruchin, a former wildcat outpost authorised retroactively in April in a decision which brought a statement of "concern" from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The latest moves come as the United States works to rekindle dormant peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians where Israeli settlement building is a prime sticking point.

Secretary of State John Kerry had been expected to visit Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week but the State Department said he was postponing the trip to focus on talks about Syria.

US officials insist Kerry remains fully engaged in his efforts and say he plans to reschedule his trip as soon as possible.

But the top US diplomat has warned he is not prepared to make endless futile trips, urging both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to make the "tough decisions" needed to restart talks frozen since 2010.

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