World Bulletin/News Desk
Israel pursued plans for nearly 14,000 new homes for settlers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem during now-suspended peace talks with the Palestinians, an Israeli watchdog group said on Tuesday.
Peace Now, which monitors and opposes Israeli settlement of land Palestinians seek for a state, said Israel finalised 4,868 home construction tenders in the nine months since the talks began - effectively a four-fold increase compared with recent years.
In a new report that coincided with the passing of an April 29 deadline for a peace accord, the group also said Israeli authorities had processed plans, in various stages of approval, for another 8,983 settler homes while the U.S.-sponsored negotiations were under way.
Palestinians have cited settlements, which they fear could deny them a viable state, as a key factor behind the collapse of the negotiations.
Israeli announcements, during the talks, of some of the projects stoked Palestinian anger, amplified by Erekat on Tuesday.
"Everything Israel did during the past nine months aimed at sabotaging Palestinian and international efforts to achieve the two-state solution," he said in the statement.
"To build settlements in occupied land, kill Palestinians and demolish hundreds of Palestinian homes is certainly not the behaviour of a government that wants to end occupation but of a government that wants to turn occupation into annexation."
In a West Bank village on Tuesday, Israeli forces demolished several structures, including a mosque, which the military said were built without an Israeli permit in a live-fire training zone. Palestinians says such permits are almost impossible to obtain
Israel suspended the peace talks last week after West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reached a unity agreement with Hamas.
Erekat dismissed that argument.
"If this Israeli government were sincerely interested in peace, it would have taken Palestinian national reconciliation as an opportunity for peace rather than an opportunity for a new blame game," he said.
Last Mod: 29 Nisan 2014, 17:31