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Israel to bar U.N. team from settlement areas

Israeli soldiers stand guard against Palestinian protesters demonstrating against the relocation of an Israeli road gate in the village of Beit Iksa, in the occupied West Bank between Ramallah and Jerusalem, March 22, 2012. A recent decision by Israel to build a separation barrier between Beit Iksa and Jerusalem has effectively put the village under Israeli occupation, isolating it from other nearby Palestinian towns.
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images

(AP) JERUSALEM - Israel cut working relations with the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday and will bar a U.N. team from entering Israel or the West Bank for a planned investigation of Jewish settlements, the Foreign Ministry said.

Israel accuses the council of having a pronounced anti-Israel bias because of what it says is its disproportionate focus on Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

Israeli leaders have been in an uproar over the council's adoption of a resolution last week condemning Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and its decision to send a fact-finding mission to investigate such activity.

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On Monday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced Israel was severing working ties with the council.

"It means that we're not going to work with them. We're not going to let them carry out any kind of mission for the Human Rights Council, including this probe," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

Israel page on OHCHR website

The Palestinians are preparing settlement maps and photos to present to the council, said senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath. He said Israel will not be able to stop the investigation by cutting ties with the council.

"We will go to any international body that can investigate and impose sanctions," he said.

Much of the international community sees settlement construction on occupied lands the Palestinians seek for a future state as a major impediment to peacemaking, and has pressured Israel to freeze it.

Israel has moved 500,000 Israelis to the West Bank and east Jerusalem since capturing the areas, along with Gaza, in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, though it still controls access by air, sea and land.