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Israel okays new Jerusalem settlement buildings

Jan. 5, 2010 12:06 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 6, 2010 1:06 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma'an – Israeli authorities approved on Monday the construction of four new settlement apartment buildings Palestinian land in occupied east Jerusalem.

According to Israeli media, the country’s Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee approved the new structures, intended to house 24 settler families adjacent to a Jewish religious school, in the heart of the annexed Palestinian capital.

The project was initiated by Jewish American gambling tycoon Irving Moskowitz, who caused a diplomatic storm last year when he obtained a permit to bulldoze East Jerusalem’s historic Shepherd hotel in order to build a settlement.

Last week, the US, Europe, and other world powers condemned a plan announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to add 700 apartments to settlements in the vicinity of Jerusalem.

"The United States opposes new Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved by the parties through negotiations and supported by the international community," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in reaction to the announcement.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the Israeli Housing Ministry invited contractors to bid on the construction of 198 housing units in the settlement Pisgat Ze'ev, 377 in Neve Ya'akov and 117 in Har Homa.

The Swedish presidency of the European Union also issued a statement saying it was "dismayed" at the announcement. "Settlements on occupied land are illegal under international law," the statement said. "The Presidency of the European Union thus urges the Government of Israel to reconsider these plans."
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