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Israel Settlers Seek Hundreds of Homes in West Bank

Thursday, 13 Jun 2013 03:40 AM

JERUSALEM — Israeli settlers are seeking approval for hundreds of homes in the northern West Bank settlements of Itamar and Bruchin, despite Palestinian insistence that such plans block a return to peace talks, Israel media reported on Thursday.

The Jerusalem Post said plans to build 538 new homes in Itamar and legalize 137 existing units were submitted to regional authorities this week for review. Haaretz put the numbers at 537 and 130 respectively.

The planned new construction would enlarge Itamar almost five-fold.

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

Settlement watchdog Peace Now said that while the Itamar expansion had been expected the scope of the planned building at Bruchin came as a surprise.

"In Bruchin there are about 50 permanent homes and another 50 mobile homes," the nongovernmental organization's Hagit Ofran told AFP. "I didn't know that they were going to propose enlarging the settlement tenfold."

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.

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

But the top U.S. 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.

Abbas has said that he will not resume talks until Israel stops settlement construction.

Netanyahu on Monday told a parliamentary committee that Israel was building in the West Bank and would continue to do so.

He said that keeping hold of the major settlement blocs that house most of the 360,000 Israelis living in the occupied West Bank outside annexed Arab east Jerusalem would not prejudice the outcome of peace talks.

"We need to be smart not just right," Netanyahu told MPs. "Settlement in the blocs will not significantly affect the ability to reach an agreement."

He has said before that he intends to keep those areas under Israeli rule, presumably leaving open the option of withdrawing from less built-up areas.

But Itamar is a relatively small, isolated settlement southeast of the West Bank city of Nablus and surrounded by Palestinian villages.

In March 2011 at Itamar two Palestinians stabbed to death a family of five, including a three-month-old baby in an attack that brought international condemnation.

Since then, settler leaders have been pushing for the settlement to be expanded.

Haaretz said that no planning permission had ever been granted for the settlement but in the wake of the killings the government sought to give it an official seal of approval.

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© AFP 2017

 
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MiddleEast
Israeli settlers are seeking approval for hundreds of homes in the northern West Bank settlements of Itamar and Bruchin, despite Palestinian insistence that such plans block a return to peace talks, Israel media reported on Thursday.
Israel,Palestinians,settler,construction
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2013-40-13
Thursday, 13 Jun 2013 03:40 AM
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