Israel has invited tenders to build 92 homes in the Maaleh Adumim settlement near Jerusalem where construction plans have already sparked international protest, a settlement watchdog said on Tuesday.
"There is a new tender for 92 housing units in Maaleh Adumim," Peace Now spokeswoman Hagit Ofran told AFP, saying the invitation to tender -- which was published overnight -- had been approved in October ahead of the UN vote on upgrading the Palestinians' status.
The European Union issued fresh condemnation of Israel on Monday for reviving controversial settlement construction plans, particularly a project known as E1, between Maaleh Adumim and annexed Arab east Jerusalem, in the wake of the UN decision to grant the Palestinians observer non-member state status.
"The European Union is deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and in particular plans to develop the E1 area," the 27 EU foreign ministers said in a statement.
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The E1 plan "if implemented, would seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict" as it would call into question the viability of the two-state settlement central to the peace process, they said.
Ofran said that along with the Maaleh Adumim offer, the government also relaunched two previously unsuccessful tenders, one for eight homes in the southern West Bank settlement of Efrat and another for a commercial building in Har Homa in east Jerusalem.
She linked them to January general elections, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rightwing nationalist allies are expected to win.
"This is part of the Netanyahu government's offensive to try and create before the election as many facts on the ground as possible to create an obstacle to any peace agreement," she said.