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Israel denies report on accelerated settlement construction

Peace Now group says 229 new West Bank homes okayed, but Netanyahu and Ya’alon insist most approvals are ‘upgrades only’

Illustrative photo of a construction site in Tekoa, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, on September 7, 2014 (Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a construction site in Tekoa, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, on September 7, 2014 (Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Thursday denied a report saying that Israel has approved plans for more than 200 new settler homes in the West Bank

Hagit Ofran, a spokeswoman for settlement watchdog group Peace Now, earlier said the government had given the green light for at least 229 homes, which are at various stages in the process of approval.

Peace Now said the new plans call for additional homes in a range of settlements, including Har Bracha (54 homes) near Nablus in the northern West Bank; Revava (17), also in the northern West Bank; Ganei Modiin (48), northwest of Jerusalem; Tekoa (34), south of Jerusalem; and Givat Ze’ev (76), north of Jerusalem.

The bulk of the report was refuted in a government statement. “The prime minister and defense minister did not approve new building as was publicized,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in response.

The settlement of Har Bracha in the northern West Bank in September 2014.
The settlement of Har Bracha in the northern West Bank in September 2014.

“Nearly all the approvals are for upgrading of existing buildings,” it said in a statement.

“The few that relate to new building are in the Ganei Modiin community, which is right next to the fence and will be part of Israel in any future settlement,” it said.

Peace Now says that the number of West Bank settlement homes Israel plans to build more than tripled in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period last year.

Between January and March, projects for 674 housing units passed at least one of the steps in the planning approval process, up from 194 in the first quarter of 2015, it said. The new plans bring the total to at least 903.

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