JERUSALEM (AP)The U.S. Embassy said Monday it was “deeply concerned” by Israeli plans to build hundreds of new homes in West Bank settlements, calling the Israeli enclaves “illegitimate” and an obstacle to resuming direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

In a defiant response to a deadly attack on a settler family over the weekend, Israel swiftly approved the construction of between 300 and 500 new homes in major West Bank settlement blocks. Jewish settlement construction is at the crux of the current impasse in peace efforts.

“They murder, we build,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday during a condolence call to the grieving family. Palestinian militants are presumed to have carried out the assault.

The plans for new construction infuriated Palestinians, and together with the attack that killed parents and three of their children, drove prospects for renewed peacemaking even further out of reach. A Netanyahu aide said the Israeli government informed the U.S. — which has been toiling with little success to break the negotiations deadlock — of the decision.

“We’re deeply concerned by continuing Israeli actions on settlements in the West Bank,” the statement from the U.S. Embassy said. “As we said before, we view these settlements as illegitimate and as running counter to efforts to resume direct negotiations.”

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