OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel on Wednesday moved forward with plans for 261 new homes in two settlements located deep in the occupied West Bank, the Peace Now settlement watchdog said.
The plans include 256 housing units in Nofei Prat settlement, between east Jerusalem and Jericho, and another five in the sprawling Ariel settlement in the north, the group said.
"The addition of 256 housing units to the small, isolated settlement of Nofei Prat dramatically changes the settlement, expanding its size and population significantly. In fact, these planned units will nearly triple the size of Nofei Prat," Peace Now said in a statement.
Construction would be allowed to start "without further political approval or public awareness," it added.
It was the fifth such move in just over two weeks and raised to 2,791 the number of new settler homes announced since the start of the year.
Israel moved ahead on Tuesday with plans for 381 homes for West Bank settlers, prompting Palestinian charges it was more interested in building settlements than reaching a peace agreement.
It also pushed ahead with plans for a second visitors' centre at an archaeological site in Silwan, a densely-populated Arab neighbourhood of east Jerusalem, Peace Now said.
And on January 6, Israel approved plans for 272 new homes in various West Bank settlements. Four days later, it unveiled plans for more than 1,877 new units, some in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
Last July, Israel and the Palestinians embarked on nine months of direct negotiations at the urging of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
But over the past six months, Israel has not slowed its construction on land the Palestinians want for a future state. The Palestinians have long viewed settlement construction as a major obstacle to resolving the decades-old conflict.