Israel approves construction of 130 homes in east Jerusalem

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The Jerusalem municipality on Wednesday approved a plan for the construction of 130 housing units in the east of the city, officials said.

The homes are to be built in the neighborhood of Gilo, which is regarded by the international community as a settlement. The plan still needs to be approved by the Interior Ministry and Regional Planning Committee, Ynet news reported.

Pepe Alalu of the left-wing Meretz party said the new homes will be built in three 12-story tower blocks in the neighborhood near the northern West Bank city of Bethlehem. He said that a large tourist complex will also be built in the heart of the Silwan, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

Palestinian Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh condemned the Israeli municipality's decision. He told the Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA) that peace negotiations cannot be resumed without a complete halt of all settlement activities.

The move comes about two weeks after the Construction and Housing Ministry and the Israel Land Administration announced that hundreds of housing units will be marketed beyond the Green Line. According to the announcement, 348 of the units will be built in the town of Beitar illit, 500 in Har Homa in south Jerusalem and 180 in Givat Ze'ev in the northern part of the capital.

The four European Union members of the United Nation Security Council strongly criticized Israel's plan to expand its settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Britain, France, Germany and Portugal issued a joint statement, saying the Israeli settlements in Palestinian occupied territories and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.

Last year, Israel and the Palestinian Authority stalled the peace negotiations, which were supported by the United States and the United Nations, after the Jewish nation refused to extend a moratorium on settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territory in September.

In response, Palestinian President Abbas broke off direct talks as recommended by Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union and countries such as the United States and Israel. Israel has since resumed settlement construction even though they have been labeled as a violation of international law by the international community.

Palestine has demanded a stop to settlement construction in the disputed East Jerusalem and West Bank area as a key element for continuing peace talks, aimed at reaching a two-state solution based on the 1967 Green Line. However, Israeli authorities have rejected the Palestinian solution based on the 1967 borders as that measure would leave a large population of Israelis in Judea and Samaria outside Israel's borders.

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