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Israel has approved the construction of 50 new housing units in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. Officials said the homes would house settlers being moved from a nearby unauthorised outpost and were only the first part of an expansion plan. The move runs counter to a demand by Israel's major ally and backer, the US, that it stop all settlement activity on occupied Palestinian land. It came hours before Defence Minister Ehud Barak was due to fly to the US.