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Israel approves nearly 1,200 new settlement homes

Israel approves nearly 1,200 new settlement homes
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Israel's housing minister on Sunday gave final approval for building nearly 1,200 new settlement apartments on lands the Palestinians want for their...

Israel's housing minister on Sunday gave final approval for building nearly 1,200 new settlement apartments on lands the Palestinians want for their state, just three days before US sponsored talks on the borders of such a state are to begin in Jerusalem.

The Palestinians said they would complain to the U.S. and Europe. Negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh said Israel's latest announcement on promoting settlement plans, the third over the course of a week, "is clear proof that the Israeli government is not serious about the talks."

The announcement by Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel came just hours before Israel was to announce the names of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners to be freed later this week. In all, Israel has promised to free 104 such prisoners in four stages over the course of nine months of negotiations.

The release of the prisoners is part of a U.S.-brokered deal that brought the two sides back to the table after a five-year freeze. Sunday's new settlement announcement and the expected decision on choosing the prisoners slated for release highlighted the apparent tradeoff.

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