in depth

  Israel vows action against settlers
  Video: Israel's settlement subsidy policy
  Riz Khan: The Middle East peace process
  Video: Israelis protest settlement freeze
  Blogs: Mitchell has a point
  Settlements strain US-Israel ties
  Video: Palestinian anger over settlements
  Video: US opposed to Israeli settlements
  Video: Living in fear of eviction
  Q&A: Jewish settlements

The Haaretz report said: "Army Radio reported that there are several other areas where the Defense Ministry wants to approve construction, because every step of the planning has been in complete accordance with the law, but the ministry refrains from approving these plans due to fear of international criticism."

The paper quoted Yariv Oppenheimer, Peace Now's secretary-general, as telling Army Radio that while Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, calls for relaunching peace talks with the Palestinians, in practice he and Ehud Barak, the defence minister, are doing everything in their power to promote new construction plans in the West Bank and to authorise illegal construction in outposts and settlements.

The new constructions followed the Israeli housing ministry's approval on Monday of plans to build almost 700 new apartments in three illegal Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

Monday's announcement invited construction companies to bid to build 198 housing units in Pisgat Zeev, 377 homes in Neve Yaakov and 117 dwellings in Har Homa.

Palestinian officials and the US were quick to condemn Monday's move as incompatible with efforts to restart the stalled peace process.

About 190,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem and another 290,000 settlers currently live in the occupied West Bank.