Israel 'set settler record' amid peace talks

Government approved 14,000 new homes on occupied land during nine months of US-brokered talks, Israeli monitor says.

    Israel 'set settler record' amid peace talks
    All Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law [AP]

    Israel promoted plans or approved tenders for nearly 14,000 new settler homes on occupied Palestinian land during the nine months of peace talks, an Israeli monitor group said as the negotiation period formally ended.

    The Peace Now group said on Tuesday that the scale of the plans for East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank was "unprecedented", with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government approving the equivalent of about 50 new homes a day, or about 1,500 a month.

    According to Peace Now's figures, there were on average about 1,385 settler homes approved during Netanyahu's first government, while an average of 1,389 a year were approved under the government of Ehud Olmert.

    "Netanyahu broke construction records during the nine-month peace talks," Yariv Oppenheimer, the head of Peace Now, told the AFP news agency. 

    All Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law.

     

    Palestinians had wanted a complete settlement freeze as a fundamental condition of resuming talks. Netanyahu rejected the notion that settlement building ran counter to peace efforts.

     

    The Peace Now report was released on the same day a US-imposed deadline expired for progress on Israeli-Palestinian talks.

     

    Israel last week suspended negotiations with Palestinian leaders after Hamas, which controls the West Bank, agreed to form a unity government with the West Bank-based Fatah.

     

     However, their progress had stuttered ever since their relaunch last year by the US secretary of state, John Kerry.

    Mosque demolished

    Also on Tuesday, the Reuters news agency reported that Israeli forces had demolished several structures, including a mosque, in a Palestinian village.

    A Reuters correspondent witnessed several hundred soldiers deployed in Khirbet al-Taweel, in the occupied West Bank, around dawn.

    They guarded six bulldozers that reduced to rubble buildings that were constructed without Israeli permits. Palestinians say such documents are nearly impossible to obtain.

    Villagers said the stone mosque was built in 2008, and that soldiers removed prayer rugs and holy scriptures before tearing it down.

    Other razed buildings included three one-storey family houses, animal shelters and a communal well. Locals said around
    30 people were made homeless. 

    The Israeli army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    "I went to make my dawn prayers at the mosque and found the army surrounding it," said resident Abdel Fattah Maarouf, 63. "Then they tore it down. They want this area so they can build settlements in it."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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