Settlers have started building new homes at a quick pace since the government lifted its 10-month moratorium on West Bank construction - some 554 in three weeks, more than four times faster than the last two years. According to a survey by the Associated Press, ground has been broken on 544 new West Bank homes since September 26, when the ban was lifted. The survey was based on visits to 16 of the West Bank's more than 120 settlements as well as phone calls to more than four dozen settlements and interviews with construction workers and mayors. Much of the building activity witnessed by the AP involved leveling ground, and some settler leaders argue it is premature to define that as housing starts.
The Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now estimates there have been more than 600 housing starts and plans to issue its own detailed report next week.
"This figure is alarming and is another indicator that Israel is not serious about the peace process, which is supposed to be about ending the occupation," said Ghassan Khatib, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.