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Israeli Settlement Freeze Ends


Israel's 10-month freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank expired on Sunday, threatening to derail the latest round of Mideast peace talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged West Bank settlers to "show restraint" as the 2200 GMT deadline approaches. Some settlers are planning to hold a rally Sunday to count down the end of the moratorium.

Palestinian leaders have threatened to walk out of the talks if construction resumes.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday Israel's "mentality of expansion and domination" is pushing his people, and the broader Middle East, into a cycle of violence and conflict that prevents genuine solutions to the region's problems.

David Axelrod, one of U.S. President Barack Obama's chief advisors, told ABC's "This Week" program Sunday that the U.S. is "eager" for both sides to continue what he calls an "unparalleled opportunity" to reach a peace agreement.

The United States is pressing Israel to extend the moratorium on new settlement construction and urging Palestinians not to walk away from the talks.

Israeli and Palestinian officials met U.S. diplomats on the sideline of the U.N. General Assembly Saturday in an effort to prevent the talks from stalling.

Israeli settlers and their supporters have pressured Mr. Netanyahu to end the restrictions, which he has said he will not extend.

Breaking the 3-year-old Gaza Blockade:

Meanwhile, a boat carrying Jewish activists from Israel, Europe and the United States has set sail for Gaza from Cyprus in a bid to breach Israel's blockade and deliver aid.

The boat set sail Sunday from northern Cyprus carrying eight passengers and several crew.

The British group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, organized the voyage. The group says it plans to deliver medical equipment, children's toys and other supplies to Gaza.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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