The number of Jewish settlers living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip has jumped by 13,600 over the past 12 months to around 200,000, Israel's interior ministry announced Thursday.
The new figures, representing a rise of 7.5 percent, were announced only days after the collapse of the Camp David peace summit with the Palestinians, with the fate of the settlements in the occupied territories one of the contentious issues on the bargaining table.
Most of the settlers are in the West Bank, with 6,700 living in the Gaza Strip.
Mossi Raz, an MP with the Labor party and the former leader of the anti-settlement group Peace Now, criticized Prime Minister Ehud Barak for allowing the population to rise when the settlements were likely to be dismantled under any future peace accord.
Barak has said around one fifth of the settlers in isolated settlements in the West Bank could be evacuated under any peace accord or agree to live under Palestinian control.
But he wants to annex the main settlement blocs, which cover around 10 percent of the West Bank.
The interior ministry figures showed that the population of Maale Adumim, the largest settlement, which lies on the edge of east Jerusalem, had risen to 25,000. The second largest is Ariel in the northern West Bank with 16,000 residents followed by Beitar Elit and Modiin Elit near Ramallah with 14,000 each - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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