Sep 16, 8:23 AM EDT

West Bank settler group boasts rapid growth

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JERUSALEM (AP) -- The main organization representing West Bank settlers says the population of Jewish Israelis living in the West Bank experienced strong growth during the first half of this year.

Dani Dayan, the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha council, says the figures are a sign that the settler population is "a thriving community that is here to stay."

The council said Tuesday that the number of Israelis living in the West Bank rose to 382,031 as of June 30, up 2 percent from 374,469 on Dec. 31. It says the growth rate is more than double that of Israel proper.

Much of the growth took place during a time when Israel was conducting peace talks with the Palestinians.

The Palestinians say the growth of settlements proves Israel isn't serious about peace.

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