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Israel ignores 'roadmap' to peace, continues to build houses

RIA Novosti

31/03/2008 15:09 MOSCOW, March 31 (RIA Novosti) - Israel is continuing to build settlements despite agreeing to freeze construction at a U.S.-hosted peace conference last November, an Israeli paper said Monday citing a report by an Israeli peace movement.

The report released on Sunday said that 101 "instances of settlement construction" had been recorded in the occupied West Bank since December, while the U.S.-brokered conference set the construction freeze as one of the primary cornerstones for peace.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper cited the report as saying that over 500 buildings were under construction adding 20% of them were located east of the West Bank security barrier.

The report also said over 946 housing units had received planning permission, while hundreds had been built without permits or approval and around 150 mobile homes or 'caravans' have been established east of the fence.

According to Peace Now, Israel intensified construction since the Annapolis conference in November 2007, with around 750 tenders announced for the construction of housing units in east Jerusalem in the past four months in comparison with two declared in 2007 prior to the conference.

The report was released on Sunday while the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was on a visit to the region to try and convince both sides to take "meaningful" steps in peace negotiations.

The parties concerned are said to have made some concessions, with the Israelis promising to remove 50 barriers from the West Bank, which Rice called "a very good start." They also said they will allow Palestinians to pass through check points faster, while Palestinians have agreed to improve security in the city of Jenin.

Peace Now was established in 1978 during the Israeli-Egyptian peace talks. The Israeli group's main principle is to ensure the right of Israelis and Palestinians to live within secure borders, including Palestinian self-determination. Some of its activities include settlement monitoring, public awareness campaigns, as well as dialogue and joint actions with Palestinian groups.

Israeli troops ended a devastating offensive in the Gaza Strip in early March, which saw 120 Palestinians killed, many of them women and children. Israel said the offensive was in response to continued rocket attacks on Israeli border towns from the Gaza Strip.

Although Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have officially denied a ceasefire agreement has been reached, there has been a sharp decline in rocket attacks in recent weeks.



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