JERUSALEM — A new expansion of a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank is set to start at the weekend, the right-wing Makor-Rishon Hatzofe daily reported on Friday.
Continued Israeli settlement construction has been a major stumbling block for peace talks with the Palestinians, which have made little progress since they were revived in November.
The mayor of the Efrat settlement in the southern West Bank is due to lay the cornerstone of the new neighbourhood on Sunday, the paper said.
The project, which will consist of 54 residential units, was approved in principle by the Israeli government in 2003.
Efrat, which has a population of 4,000, is part of the Gush Etzion block south of Jerusalem.
In a separate development, four mobile homes were set up in the Tenne Omarim settlement, south of Hebron, with the approval of the Israeli defence ministry, to be used as temporary homes for Jewish families, public radio reported.
Israel had pledged at a US-sponsored conference in November to abide by a five-year-old internationally drafted peace blueprint known as the roadmap, which calls for a freeze on settlement activity.
But Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed earlier this week that Israel would continue to build settlements in annexed east Jerusalem.
Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem, including the Arab eastern sector, which it captured during the 1967 Middle East war, its eternal, undivided capital, a claim not recognised by the international community.
The Palestinians want to make east Jerusalem the capital of their promised state.
The international community considers all Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land to be illegal.
Speaking in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday, visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized the continued settlement construction.
“We are worried by the Israeli settlement activity and urge Israel to end it,” Lavrov said at a news conference with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.