The U.S. government is urging Israel to abide by the road map that calls for ending settlements, not expanding them. U.S. officials are also calling on Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian officials to resolve a border closure that has left hundreds of Palestinians stranded.

Israel's defense ministry has approved the expansion of a major Jewish settlement, which is home to 28,000 residents, near Jerusalem, The go-ahead for an additional 600 homes comes despite U.S. calls to freeze settlement activity for the sake of the peace process.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli Monday reminded Israel of its commitments to the so-called "road map" for peace. But he stopped short of criticizing the latest decision to expand Maale Adumin settlement.

"The road map calls for an end to all settlement activities, including natural growth," Mr. Ereli says. "We have discussed with Prime Minister Sharon the need to make progress on the settlement issue, beginning with the removal of unauthorized settlement outposts."

Mr. Ereli also called on Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian officials to resolve a humanitarian crisis sparked by Israel's closure of a border crossing, which has left hundreds of Palestinians stranded on the Egyptian side.

"We are reiterating our call to all the parties to avoid taking steps or actions that undermine trust and create new obstacles to implementing the road map and realizing the president's vision of two states," Mr. Ereli says. "The burden and hardship being imposed on the Palestinians is problematic and we are working with all parties to help resolve it."

Palestinian families have been camping inside the Egyptian border terminal or in makeshift tents outside since Israel closed the Rafah crossing two weeks ago.