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Israelis push settlement plans despite peace talks

Israel approves construction of almost 1,000 settler homes in West Bank, while preparatory talks underway between Israel and Palestinians over peace negotiations

AFP , Thursday 8 Aug 2013

Israeli authorities have moved forward on giving final approval on plans to construct 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 Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon several months ago and plans were now being made available to the 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, Peace Now's Lior Amihai said.

This comes as preparatory talks are underway between Israel and the Palestinians over resuming direct peace negotiations, stalled for nearly three years.

The Palestinians have demanded that Israel freeze settlement construction before returning to talks, while the Jewish state has rejected any preconditions.

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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