2,500 Israeli Settlement Housing Units Approved By US: Israeli Newspaper

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Despite consistent US efforts to convince Israel to freeze all settlement activities in the West Bank, in accordance with the 2003 Road Map, US officials nevertheless agreed to allow the construction of an additional 2,500 housing unites spanning across 700 buildings in a number of settlement outposts, according to the Tel Aviv-based Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv.

The Ma'ariv report, reported in English by Haaretz, quotes 'Western officials' who say the concession is pursuant to upholding already existing contracts--some of which have already begun work, which is nonrefundable. Ma'ariv quotes one official as saying, "we're talking about polishing off things that are basically done."

The report comes just as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell are negotiating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, with a specific focus on settlements. Barak told Israel's Army Radio this week that 23 illegal outposts are set to be evacuated soon.

According to Haaretz, neither US or Israeli spokesmen had any comment to offer on the Ma'ariv story at this time.

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