Israel to build border wall to protect Metulla.
A sign and barbed wire warn vehicles to stop in English, Hebrew and Arabic on a road leading to the Lebanese border near the northern Israeli town of Metulla May 24, 2001.

Israel has authorised three settlement outposts in the West Bank, according to a statement from the prime minister's office on Tuesday.

The three settlements Bruchin and Rechelim, in the north and Sansana, near Hebron, have been formalised by the Israeli ministerial committee looking into the matter. The three settlements have a strength of 830 residents in all.

According to the committee, the three settlements were established by early governments in the 1990's.

"The decision does not make any changes on the ground. It does not mean any expansion of existing settlements or establishment of new ones," the BBC quoted an Israeli official as saying.

The latest development followed a meeting of the Israeli prime minister with Palestinian officials just a week ago. The decision of the ministerial committe on settlements came after a comment from the office of the Benjamin Netanyahu that both sides were committed to reaching peace.

The move has been strongly condemned by Palestinian authorities.

"Every single settlement built on Palestinian land is illegal," the BBC quoted the chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, as saying.

"The Israeli government must choose between peace and settlements. It cannot have both," he added.

In a separate development, Israel would be beginning the work of a border wall along Lebanon to keep itself safe from conflicts with its neighbour, according to reports.

Work on the construction of a two kilometre (more than a mile) and 10 metres (33 ft) high border wall to shield its northern town of Metulla , will be started next week by the Israelis, a Channel 10 report said.

According to the report, the border wall is meant to prevent frequent clashes between Israeli and Lebanese border forces, which are posted at a short distance from each other and also to restrict cross-border sniper fires.

The Lebanese government has already been informed by the Israelis and the project is proposed to be coordinated through the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).