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Israel blocks EU projects in West Bank

The EU imposed its restrictions last week, citing its frustration over the continued expansion of Jewish settlements in territory. The new guidelines render Israeli entities operating there ineligible for EU grants, prizes or loans, beginning next year. The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon had decided to suspend contacts with the EU in the West Bank. Yaalon, a former army chief and a hardliner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, has "frozen projects, cancelled meetings, curtailed coordination and permits for Europe's operations" for Palestinians living in what is known as Area C, a West Bank area fully administered by Israel, he said. In Brussels, Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said: "The EU is concerned by reports in the Israeli media that the Israeli Minister of Defence has announced a number of restrictions affecting EU activities supporting the Palestinian people. "We have not received any official communication from the Israeli authorities. Our delegations on the spot are seeking urgent clarifications," Kocijancic added.

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that due to the Israeli measures, several European humanitarian aid staff had failed to receive permits to enter the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip.

Under the terms of a 1993 interim peace accord, some 150,000 Palestinians, many of them poor farmers and shepherds living in Area C, a West Bank zone where many settlements have been built, are fully under Israeli military control,

The Palestinians have limited self-rule over other parts of the West Bank, and share joint custody with Israel over yet other areas.

Some of Europe's assistance in the West Bank goes to Palestinians for building homes. But many have been designated illegal and demolished by Israel.

The Association of International Development Agencies, a coalition of 80 aid groups, said in a report in May that 600 settler houses had been built since mid-2012, while Israel demolished 535 Palestinian-owned homes and structures.

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