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Israel advances plan for settlements

JERUSALEM — Israel is moving forward with plans to build more than 1,000 homes in two small isolated Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank, a spokesman said Thursday, as Palestinian officials complained that Israel is undercutting US peace efforts at a sensitive time.

The announcement drew swift US condemnation.

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The settlements to be expanded, Itamar and Bruchin, are in an area of the West Bank that would not be part of Israel in any foreseeable partition deal with the Palestinians. The building plans, which still need final approval, would increase the number of homes in both settlements far beyond any needs for accommodating natural population growth.

The construction plans were given preliminary approval last year and still require official endorsement following public appeals.

Settlement building lies at the heart of the impasse over restarting negotiations on the terms of a Palestinian state.

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