"The settlers are working fast to produce as many construction starts as possible so that these new housing units will be counted as existing settlements and not included in any future agreed upon freeze," the report said.


Washington has been pressing hard for Israel to halt all construction work on occupied Palestinian land ahead of the resumption of Middle East peace talks. Israel has so far balked at the demand.

Israeli settler colonies are widely considered as the main hurdle in the way of comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Under the Roadmap For Peace plan brokered by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia in 2002, Israel has to "dismantle settlement outposts erected since 2001 and also freeze all settlement activities".

It is estimated that there are almost 200,000 illegal Jewish settlers in the 12 or so Israeli settlements in Jerusalem. There are also about 300,000 more illegal Jewish settlers living in settlements across the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law because they are erected on occupied lands that the Palestinians claim for a future state.