NGO: Israel unveils plans for 261 new settler homes "deep in the occupied West Bank"
Internationally, Israel's settlements on Palestinian occupied land are considered illegal. In 2013, settlement building rose by 70 percent. (AFP/File)
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Israel on Wednesday consolidated its plans for 261 new homes in two settlements deep in the occupied West Bank, the Peace Now settlement watchdog reported.
Israel's plans include building 256 housing units in Nofei Prat settlement, which lies between east Jerusalem and Jericho, and another five in the sprawling Ariel settlement in the north of Israel, Peace Now said, according to Agence France Presse.
"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, according to AFP.
This annoucement marks the fifth such move in just over two weeks, according to AFP, and brings to 2,791 the number of new settler homes that Israel has said it will build since the start of 2014.
On Tuesday, Israel moved forwards with the construction plans for 381 homes for West Bank settlers, prompting Palestine to accuse Israel of being more invested in building illegal settlements than securing lasting peace.
Peace Now also reported that Israel is rapidly moving ahead with plans for a second visitors' centre at an archaeological site in Silwan, a majority Arab neighbourhood in highly contested east Jerusalem, according to AFP.
Earlier this month on January 6, the Israeli government gave the green light for the plans of 272 new homes across several West Bank settlements. On January 10, it released the plans for more than 1,877 new homes, some of them in annexed Arab east Jerusalem, AFP reported.
In July 2013, Israel and the Palestinians came back to the negotiations table in a bid to reach viable Mideast peace for the first time in three years under the guidance of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Peace talks in 2010 were stalled due to Israeli settlement building.
Since July, Israel has increased its settlement activity - in 2013, it increased by 70 percent - and has proposed to build many of the units on the land that Palestine is hoping to secure for their future state.
On the day the talks were due to begin Israel unveiled plans for 91 West Bank settlements, jeopardizing the negotiations before they had even begun.
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