Israel says it will build more than 1,000 new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel's Housing Ministry said on August 11 that plans to build 1,187 apartments have been given final approval. Nearly 800 of these homes will be built in East Jerusalem, and around 400 in several large Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
The announcement comes just three days before Israel and the Palestinians are to hold a second round of direct talks in Jerusalem on ending their long-standing conflict.
Direct peace talks resumed after a three-year break last month in Washington. The talks had collapsed in 2010 over the issue of settlement building.
Palestinians had long insisted there would be no talks without a freeze on settlement building.
They agreed to a resumption of the U.S.-brokered talks after Israel said it would release more than 100 long-serving Palestinian prisoners.
More than 500,000 Israelis live in dozens of settlements built by Israel on land it captured in the 1967 Middle East War.
Palestinians want the land as part of a future state they wish to establish in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said on August 11 that Israel's plans for new settler homes were aimed to undermine the peace talks.
But he said Palestinians were "determined" to give the latest peace effort "every chance it deserves."
Israel has promised to free 104 Palestinian prisoners over the nine months of negotiations agreed with the United States.
The first 26 are due to be released on August 13.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP