JERUSALEM — Israel’s intention to announce a new settlement construction push next week as it releases more Palestinian prisoners spurred criticism from both Palestinians and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s intention to announce a new settlement construction push next week as it releases more Palestinian prisoners spurred criticism from both Palestinians and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet.


The plan to issue bids to build on land Palestinians claim for a future state adds pressure on peace talks already strained by escalating violence between the sides.


A government official said he expects Netanyahu to approve moving ahead with the plans. The government also announced new construction in tandem with two previous rounds of prisoner releases to blunt opposition to freeing Palestinians involved in attacks on Israelis. The official, who was not authorized to give his name, said the latest construction push didn’t violate the guidelines of the U.S.-brokered negotiations.


Israel agreed to free 104 Palestinian prisoners in four rounds, paving the way for the renewal of talks in July. The third round is scheduled to take place next week.


"There’s not doubt that, in a formal sense, there was no commitment to stop construction," Israeli Environment Minister Amir Peretz told Army Radio Thursday. Even so, settlement building violates the spirit of the talks and jeopardizes Israel’s international relationships, Peretz added.


"We have to understand there’s a need to maintain the framework of our relationships with Europe, our special relationship with the U.S.," said Peretz, whose Hatenuah party is the strongest supporter of peace talks in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition. Its chairwoman, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, is Israel’s chief negotiator.


The U.S. and European Union have condemned Israeli settlement construction as endangering the chances of reach a two-state peace deal. The Palestinians say the continued construction during talks is evidence of bad faith.


Israel is "approving more settlement tenders because they want to find excuses not to continue the negotiations," Omar al-Ghoul, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Thursday in a phone interview. The U.S. "should tell the Israelis enough is enough," he said.


A flare in violence between the sides continued overnight when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed near the southern city of Ashkelon, causing no injuries or damage, the army said. On Dec. 24, an Israeli Arab was killed by a Palestinian sniper firing over the Gaza border, and a Palestinian girl was killed in a retaliatory Israeli strike on the territory.