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Israel Approves Hundreds of Illegal Settlement Homes Ahead of Obama Visit

Obama 'to reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds' between US, Israel

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Israeli officials gave the final stamp of approval for hundreds of new settler homes in the West Bank over the weekend, signaling the country's refusal to cease its illegal expansion in the West Bank ahead of a recently scheduled visit by US president Barack Obama.

The Jewish settlement of Pisgat Zeev in East Jerusalem, on August 11, 2011. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli) The Israeli defense ministry on Sunday said it has given the green light for the construction of 346 new settler homes in two settlements in the southern West Bank.

"The defense ministry has approved plans for 200 housing units in Tekoa and 146 housing units in Nokdim," the ministry said.

Additionally, reports surfaced on Monday that Israel has given the final approval for 90 new homes in the Beit El settlement near Ramallah.

The moves, which defy condemnation from an ever growing international community, come days after the White House announced that Obama will visit Israel in March for the first time in his presidency in a bid to "to reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel,” White House spokesman Jay Carney stated last week.

Israel has continued to refuse to go forward on stalled peace talks with Palestine unless it can continue its illegal West Bank expansion and control over East Jerusalem.

Construction of the new houses in the Beit El settlement near Ramallah could begin within a few days, officials said.