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Reports: New settlement construction to greet prisoner releases

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly will announce new construction permits for West Bank settlement housing in concert with the release of Palestinian prisoners.

The third release of Palestinian prisoners, to which Israel agreed more than three months ago in conjunction with the Palestinians’ return to the negotiating table, is set to occur next week.

Netanyahu is to announce up to 2,000 tenders for new housing units in the West Bank, Israeli television news channels are reporting.

Both the United States and the European Union have called on Netanyahu to refrain from announcing new settlement construction during Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

The 104 prisoners being released in four phases over the nine-month negotiation period mostly were jailed before the 1993 Oslo Accords.

It had been rumored that the release next week of 26 more Palestinian prisoners would be delayed following a spate of terrorist attacks in Israel this week; however, the Cabinet agreed Wednesday to go ahead with the release, according to Channel 2.

West Bank settlement housing construction projects were announced in October following the second release of Palestinian prisoners. They projects were roundly criticized by the United States, international bodies and international leaders.

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