US hints at reducing loans to Israel over settlement activity as Palestinians under tight closure
The United States has told Israel it disapproves of plans to construct more than 600 new homes in West Bank settlements, the U.S. State Department said Friday.
Meanwhile, in an interview with The Washington Post, published Saturday, U.S. Secretary fo State Colin Powell said Israel's proposal to leave large gaps in the barrier would not satisfy U.S. concerns. He said U.S. officials were having "intense discussions" on their response.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the Israeli plans "detrimental to the peace process" and said all settlement activity was unhelpful because it complicated the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
"We think that continued settlement activity is unhelpful. Additional settlement activities such as the announcements fall under that category... We made clear our views to the
Israelis as I have described them now," he added. "We have specifically been in touch with them about those most recent decisions."
The United States will have to take the new settlement activity into account when it decides how much to deduct from the total of the $9 billion loans the United States has offered to guarantee on behalf of the Israeli government, he added.
On the ground, Palestinians on Saturday faced a total closure of their territories for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
"Based on a decision by the political authorities and the assessment of the situation, a complete closure of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and the Gaza Strip will start on Friday... through to the Yom Kippur," which ends on Monday afternoon, Israel's army said in a statement.
The holiday -- during which airports, ports and borders are closed -- is the holiest in Judaism. (Albawaba.com)
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