JERUSALEM (JTA) — Building began in West Bank communities just hours after the expiration of a 10-month settlement construction freeze.
Work on 50 apartments for Gush Katif residents removed five years ago began Monday morning in Ariel. Construction also continued Monday in Revava, Yakir and Kochav Hashachar, Haaretz reported, on homes for which permits had been issued before the freeze began.
Construction is expected to begin Tuesday in several other West Bank communities, including Shavei Shomron, Adam, Oranit, Sha’arei Tikva, Kedumim and Karmei Tzur.
In all, there are plans for the immediate construction of about 2,000 housing units throughout the West Bank, including 600 with current permits.
A rally that included a countdown to the end of the freeze sponsored by World Likud began Sunday afternoon in the northern West Bank settlement of Revava. The event included the laying of the cornerstone for a new neighborhood in the settlement, as well as the foundation for a new preschool.
Shortly after the freeze automatically expired at midnight Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, "I call on [Palestinian Authority] President Abbas to continue the good and sincere talks that we have just started in order to reach an historic peace agreement between our two peoples."
In the hours before the expiration of the freeze, Netanyahu spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other senior U.S. administration officials, as well as with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Abbas did not immediately renounce his participation in the recently revived direct peace talks with Israel, as he has threatened, instead requesting a meeting of the Arab League to receive its decision on whether or not to continue talks. In late July, the Arab League voted to allow the Palestinians to enter into peace negotiations.
Arab officials and Abbas have claimed in recent weeks that the Palestinians will not remain in the peace talks if construction resumes in the West Bank.
Construction is expected to take place slowly this week due to the Sukkot holiday.