World Bulletin/News Desk
Israel has given preliminary approval for the construction of more than 800 new homes in Jewish settlements on occupied West Bank land where Palestinians seek statehood, an Israeli official said on Thursday.
The move could complicate U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which resumed last month after an almost three-year freeze over the settlement dispute and whose second round is expected to take place next week.
Guy Inbar, spokesman for Israel's military-run Civil Administration in the West Bank, said initial plans to build 800 new settler homes were approved on Wednesday, though actual construction would require a green light from the government.
Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog, put the number of new homes discussed by the Civil Administration on Wednesday at 1,096 and said they were earmarked for 11 settlements - some of them located deep within the West Bank.
Israel insists it would annex major West Bank settlement blocs under any peace accord with the Palestinians. Most world powers regard all the settlements as illegal and Palestinians say the enclaves could deny them a viable and contiguous state.
Palestinian officials did not immediately comment on the new settlement initiative, which surfaced as Muslims celebrated the festival of Eid al-Fitr.
On Sunday, the rightist Israeli government put 91 settlements on a national priority funding list, adding six to a roster of dozens of enclaves already eligible for supplemental state cash.
Last month, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was on a peace-brokering visit to the region, the Civil Administration granted initial approval for construction of 732 new homes in Modiin Ilit, a settlement midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Ağustos 2013, 14:15