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Human rights activists monitoring the West Bank report that despite commitments Israel made to President Barack Obama's administration last month, widespread building activity commenced three weeks ago in at least 12 settlements.

The work consists of ground preparation, pouring concrete and drilling construction foundations.

This work is not part of the projects that Israel and the United States had reached an understanding on. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak had agreed with the administration to complete some 2,500 housing units that were already in various stages of construction at the time.

The dozen sites do not appear on the list of 492 new housing units that the defense ministry issued after Barak approved their construction. Work on these units began after the list was released.

The construction sites are located in the settlements Carmel, Kiryat Arba, Betar Ilit, Elazar, Shilo, Talmon, Nili, Yitzhar, Bracha and Rosh Tzurim.

Customary planning procedures in the West Bank stipulate that no ground preparing work may be carried out without the defense minister's permit. The minister may only allow the work after the construction plan has been issued and after the period for presenting objections has passed, or after the objections have been rejected.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) gave the go-ahead on Thursday for several transportation projects in the West Bank. Katz met 13 local authority heads in the territories and agreed, among other things, to have the Israel National Roads Company build access roads to several settlements. The minister also approved plans to improve safety in the settlements such as entrances, sidewalks and traffic circles near schools.

Katz told Haaretz that the plans had no political significance.

In addition, West Bank roads are being renovated in the past six weeks.

800 units in 34 settlements

Construction work is also taking place in the settlements Tekoa, Nokdim, Alon Shvut, Alonei Shilo, Bakan, Givat Zeev, Dolev, Har Gilo, Talmon, Yitzhar, Kochav Yaakov, Kfar Adumim, Kfar Etzion, Mevo Horon, Matityahu, Naaleh, Etz Efraim, P'duel, Tzofim, Kedar and Kalia.

The Peace Now movement last week reported that ground preparing work for the construction of 800 housing units was being carried out in 34 settlements.

Gush Etzion council head Shaul Goldstein commented: "Peace Now's sole purpose is provocation and dispute-mongering. They are a foreign agent sent by foreign governments, monitoring completely legal construction of people who love the nation and country. It's time Peace Now disappeared."