Israel expanding West Bank settlements
Israel is expanding most of its West Bank settlements despite a commitment to stop doing so, according to a watchdog report released Wednesday. The report by Israel's Peace Now movement said there is currently construction in 88 settlements in the West Bank, most of them located in large settlement blocs that Israel hopes to retain in a final peace agreement.
Halting settlement construction is one of the first steps Israel is supposed to take under the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan.
"All that Israel is doing on the ground is of course an obstacle to all that we are trying to achieve," Rafiq Husseini, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said, according to the AP.
The 122 settlements Israel has built in the West Bank are home to some 270,000 people, according to Israeli government statistics.
Along with the growth in officially authorized settlements, settlers are now building at least 10 more permanent structures in some of the 105 unauthorized settler outposts built in the West Bank since the 1990s to prevent land from being turned over to the Palestinians, the report added. Of 30 outposts evacuated by the government over the years, only 12 were inhabited, Peace Now said. Of those, four were repopulated by settlers, three were moved, one is now maintained by the army and only four were completely dismantled, according to the report.