JERUSALEM (JTA) — Peace Now said there was a 70 percent increase in West Bank settlement construction in the first six months of 2013 compared to last year.
The data released on Thursday were based on the left-wing organization’s survey of aerial photos and a count of the units that started to be built in each settlement or illegal outpost.
There were some 1,708 housing unit starts in the period from January to June, Peace Now said, and the construction of 1,794 housing units ended during the same period. The group said 2,840 housing units were still under construction during the period.
Some 44 percent of the construction starts, or 759 units, are located east of the planned route of the separation fence.
Building starts also began on some 180 public buildings, such as schools, synagogues and kindergartens.
Israel and the Palestinians are in the fourth month of a new round of U.S.-brokered peace talks that are scheduled to last nine months. The Palestinians had demanded a settlement construction freeze before they would return to the negotiating table — a precondition that appears to have been dropped.