Israel Allows New Settlement Homes

Israel has authorized construction of 300 new homes at a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in defiance to US calls for a halt to settlement expansion.

Israeli Army Radio said on Tuesday that 60 of the 300 homes slated for the Talmon settlement in the West Bank had already been built.

Ehud Barak, the defence minister, who oversees West Bank operations, had approved plans to construct another 240 units there, the radio said.

Israeli Defiance

Half a million Jews live in settlement blocs and smaller outposts built in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

The World Court has ruled all the settlements illegal and Barack Obama, the US president, has pressed Israel to halt all settlement activities as part of a bid to revive peace talks under which the Palestinians would gain independence alongside the Jewish state.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has refused to declare a settlement freeze, which could spark a backlash within his rightist coalition government, many of whose members see the West Bank as a Jewish biblical birthright.

Successive Israeli governments have vowed to keep settlement blocs under any peace deal.

"The settlement expansion is a continuation of the Israeli policy that destroys the efforts being exerted, especially by President Obama," Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said.

(Agencies)

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