BEIRUT

Middle East

Israel pushes forward with settlement plans

In this photo taken Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Israel.(AP Photo/Abir Sultan, Pool)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel's defense ministry says plans to build 800 new housing units in the West Bank are moving forward.

The ministry said on Monday it had approved a planning stage for the housing earlier this month. The approval is an initial step in a protracted bureaucratic process and construction is not expected to begin for months.

The approval comes as Israel and the Palestinians are conducting quiet, behind-the-scenes peace talks. The Palestinians want the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, as part of a future state and oppose Israeli settlement building.

The housing plans were originally announced last month, following Israel's release of 26 Palestinian prisoners. That move was part of a deal that brought the two sides back to negotiations.

 

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