Peace Now, an Israeli peace bloc, revealed Wednesday that the number of Israel settlers based in various Israeli settlements in the West Bank has increased by 5% in 2006 compared to 2005, totaling 268,000.

The report maintained that population growth of 121 Israeli settlements has been steadily increasing, given the movement of ultra orthodox families to like minded areas in the occupied territories and the large birth rate, which turn places like Modi’in Illit into the largest settlements in the West Bank.

Tenders: In 2006 a total of 952 tenders were published for construction contracts in the occupied territories, all of these were published post general elections (March 2006). In comparison, in 2005 a total of 1184 tenders were published.

Construction Starts: According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, for the first three quarters of 2006 a total of 1,272 construction starts were recorded. This is in contrast to 1,727 during 2005. However on the ground there is no significant change in the number of construction starts in comparison to the previous years.

Special Security Areas: In 2006 special security areas were constructed surrounding 6 settlements in the heart of the West Bank, east of the fence: Ateret, Nahaliel, Shavei Shomron, Avnei Hefetz, Karmei Tzur, Enav. In 2007 further security areas are planned to build around the settlements of Susiya and Ro’i.

Bypass Roads and Infrastructure: In 2006 the paving of the Za’atara bypass road has continued, this bypass road is meant to connect the settlements of Tko’a and Nokdim with Jerusalem. Also continuing was the work on the Anatot /Mt. Scopus road in order to allow the Anatot settlers to commute to Jerusalem without having to travel outside the fence. Also in 2006 work began to pave the Ofarim – Beit Arye Bypass.

Construction Sites: According to Peace Now evaluations today in the West Bank work on over 3000 units is underway. The largest construction sites can be found in Ma’ale Adumim, Modi’in Illit, Beitar Illit, Second largest building sites can be found in Ariel, Efrat, Alfei Menashe and Givat Zeev. Medium-sized building sites are found in El’azar, Karnei Shomron, Kiryat Arba, Alon (Kfar Adumim),Rosh Tzurim, Nirit site (Alfei Menashe), Kedumim.

Settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories have been deemed illegal by international law, yet Israel goes on with such activities, thus pre-empting any final status peace talks with the Palestinians by creating new facts on the ground.

According to United Nations Security Council resolutions 338 and 242 of 1967, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem are occupied Palestinian territories, from which Israel must withdraw immediately and accept a land for peace formula.