Mayor of Ariel settlement bloc, Ron Nahman, stated that the Israeli government decided to allow him to carry a project to build 48 houses for settlers in Ariel settlement bloc in the northern part of the occupied West Bank.The Israeli government froze the implementation of the project in October 2007 and yesterday an Israeli military spokesperson stated that the government recently allowed the construction and granted approval for several “small projects”.

He added that the government also approved the construction of 52 houses in Maali Admumim settlement, east of Jerusalem,  32 houses in Betar Elit, 32 houses in Shaare Tikva and 32 houses in Al Kana. Ariel settlement bloc is inhibited by secular and religious settlers. It is considered the fourth largest settlement bloc in the occupied West Bank. Settlers leaders reported that the approved projects are “smaller than the needs of these settlements”, and that certain bans on construction obstructed the growth of these settlements.

 Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated on Monday that Israel would continue to build homes for settlers in Jabal Abu Ghneim settlement (Har Homa) in east Jerusalem  despite international criticism.

Har Homa was built on a once-green mountain owned by Palestinians and was illegally annexed by Israel and the Jerusalem Municipality.

The United States said that the plan to build hundreds of houses in the settlement is “unhelpful to the Peace efforts.   Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said during a press conference with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Jerusalem that “Har Homa” settlement is part of Jerusalem, and that Israel would proceed the construction there.

Olmert added that under no circumstances Israeli would cede Har Homa and considered it as an inseparable part of Jerusalem, the Israeli Jerusalem Post reported.

 He claimed that Israel had stopped the construction of settlements in the West Bank and would not annex lands there.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Chief Negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, said that Israel must halt all settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank including Jerusalem, and called on the Unites States to intervene.

Erekat added that if all parties are serious about achieving peace this year, settlement activities must be stopped.