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Israel okays 130 new settler homes in East Jerusalem

Dec. 28, 2011 8:43 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 31, 2011 11:40 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities on Wednesday approved 130 new settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

Jerusalem municipality gave the go ahead to build three 12-story tower blocks in Gilo settlement, city councilor Pepe Alalu told AFP.

The council also approved plans to build tourism centers in Silwan.

Fakhri Abu Diab, head of the Silwan Committee for defending Palestinians' land and homes, told Reuters TV the tourism centers were an attempt to change the demographic reality of the Palestinian neighborhood.

"First of all, this project is a settlement and the organization that is working on it is a settler organization, which was created to take over the (Palestinian) citizens' houses and to change the geographical and demographical reality of the city.

"Secondly, this project which was planned under the umbrella of tourism, does not serve the residents here but it serves the organizations of the settlers and the occupation," he said.

On Nov. 1, the Israeli government decided to ramp up construction of Jewish-only homes in East Jerusalem after the UN cultural heritage agency UNESCO voted to admit Palestine.

The US, UN, EU and Russia -- members of the Middle East Quartet -- have repeatedly urged Israel to stop building settlements, which are illegal under international law.

On Dec. 20, representatives of Britain, France, Germany and Portugal said Israeli settlement activity was undermining attempts to restart stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.

"One of the themes that emerged was the severely damaging effect that increased settlement construction and settler violence is having on the ground and on the prospects of a return to negotiations," the four European Union members of the UN Security Council said in a joint statement.

The last round of peace talks collapsed in September 2010 over Israel's refusal to extend a partial freeze on building, and the PLO says it will not renew negotiations while Israel is building Jewish-only homes on occupied land.

Over 500,000 Israelis live in settlements on occupied Palestinian land, including around 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

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