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Israeli watchdog reports spike in settlements

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group says there has been a dramatic spike in West Bank settlement construction this year.

Peace Now said Thursday that there has been a 70 percent increase in housings starts in the first six months of 2013 compared to the same period the previous year. It said its data was based on a survey of aerial photos and a count of all housings units built in each settlement.

Palestinians consider settlements a major obstacle to establishing a state that includes the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war. Israel has since built dozens of settlements that are now home to about 550,000 Israelis.

Israelis and Palestinians recently resumed peace talks after a five-year lull.

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