Tue, Mar 03, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Israel to double number of illegal settlers

AFP , JERUSALEM

Israel’s housing ministry has plans for West Bank construction that would nearly double the number of settlers in the occupied territory, the anti-settlement group Peace Now said yesterday.

The Peace Now report came ahead of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first visit to Israel and the West Bank since taking office.

US President Barack Obama has vowed to vigorously pursue peace efforts in the region and Israeli settlements have long been one of the main obstacles to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

“The ministry of construction and housing is planning to construct at least 73,000 housing units in the West Bank,” said the Peace Now report, which was based on examination of data on Israeli government Web sites.

“At least 15,000 housing units have already been approved and plans for an additional 58,000 housing units are yet to be approved,” it said.

“If all the plans are realized, the number of settler in the territories will be doubled,” the report said, saying the estimate was based upon an average of four people in each housing unit.

Peace Now estimates that there are currently more then 280,000 Israeli settlers living in some 121 settlements in the West Bank. Another estimated 200,000 live in annexed east Jerusalem.

In a statement obtained by army radio, the housing ministry said that the plan constitutes “preliminary projects” that have yet to be approved by the various government bodies.

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