A Palestinian protester argues with Israeli troops at a demo against settlements in Maasarah, West Bank, March 15, 2013
A Palestinian protester argues with Israeli soldiers during a weekly demonstration against the Israeli occupation and the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank village of Maasarah near Bethlehem on March 15, 2013. Israeli authorities have moved forward on giving final approval on plans to build nearly 1,000 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, an official told AFP on Thursday. © - AFP/File
A Palestinian protester argues with Israeli troops at a demo against settlements in Maasarah, West Bank, March 15, 2013
AFP
Last updated: August 8, 2013

Israelis push settlement plans despite peace talks

Israeli authorities have moved forward on giving final approval on plans to build 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 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, the NGO's Lior Amihai said.

This comes as US-brokered preparatory talks are under way between Israel and the Palestinians on resuming direct peace negotiations that have been stalled for nearly three years.

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

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said on Thursday that settlement building was "the wilful destruction of any chances of peace".

"If the US really wants peace they have to intervene immediately and effectively," she told AFP.

Peace Now's 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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