West Bank settlement of Ariel
The settlement of Ariel in the West Bank. Photo by Tess Scheflan
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The United States said on Monday it found reports of fresh Israeli settlement building plans deeply troubling and counterproductive to the U.S. effort to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Israel announced on Monday approval for building 277 homes in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, despite U.S. and international pressure to curb expansion on occupied land and as Palestinians prepare for a statehood bid at the United Nations.

Earlier on Monday, the Palestinian leadership sharply criticized Israel. Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Abbas, told Reuters: "This act is condemned and is an Israeli attempt to obstruct and destroy what is left of any effort to revive the peace process.

"Once again, these Israeli settlement measures represent a strong reason calling on us to go to the United Nations and the Security Council to request membership for the State of Palestine and to halt these Israeli measures," he said.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department voiced concern over final approval given for the construction of 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a religious Jewish settlement in an area of the West Bank annexed to Jerusalem by Israel.

A State Department spokeswoman said such unilateral action "undercuts trust" and works against U.S. efforts to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.