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Israel Plans 6000 Settlement Homes

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israel plans 6000 settlement homes


Friday 25 February 2005, 13:40 Makka Time, 10:40 GMT


israel plans to build more than 6000 homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank this year, an israeli newspaper has said.



The reported settlement expansion project of the israel Lands Administration (ILA), a government agency, would coincide with israel's plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip this summer and defy US calls for a freeze in "settlement activity".


The US-backed "road map" requires a halt to settlement building on land israel captured in 1967 and where Palestinians want statehood. Palestinians are worried that israel wants to quit Gaza only to annex areas around more populous West Bank settlement blocks.


Settlements built on occupied Palestinian lands are deemed illegal under international law. But israel disputes this.


The Yediot Ahronoth daily reported on Friday that the ILA's working plan for 2005 calls for 6391 homes to be built in existing West Bank settlements. The newspaper said Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz had given the go-ahead for the marketing of the housing projects.


Freeze urged


In addition, Yediot Ahronoth said the government planned to "legitimise" 120 unauthorised settlement outposts in the West Bank that it has promised the United States to dismantle.


An ILA spokeswoman could not be reached, and a Defence Ministry spokesman declined to comment.


Palestinian chief negotiator Saib Urayqat urged US President George Bush to press israel "to make sure such a plan is not implemented and that his call for a freeze in all settlement activity is implemented".


israel has said it will continue to build in existing settlements to accommodate what it calls the natural growth of their populations.


About 225,000 israelis live in 120 settlements in the West Bank, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has pledged to hold on to major settlement blocks in the territory in any permanent peace accord with the Palestinians.


Yediot Ahronoth said a third of the new israeli homes planned this year in the West Bank would be built just outside Jerusalem in Maale Adumim, israel's largest settlement, which has a population of 30,000.


According to the ILA's website, the agency marketed 1783 new housing units in the West Bank in 2004 and 1225 in 2003.




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