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Israel to expand settlement as Kerry pushes for talks

June 30, 2013 10:57 A.M. (Updated: June 30, 2013 7:57 P.M.)
Correction appended

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's Housing Ministry is set to bring forward plans for further settlement construction between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, as US Secretary of State John Kerry extended his Mideast peace mission, Israeli media reported Sunday.

Israel's Jerusalem Municipality's finance committee is expected to approve the construction of 930 apartments in the illegal settlement of Har Homa, which was built on the Palestinian village of Jabal Abu Ghneim, Israeli Hebrew language newspaper Maariv reported.

The construction will isolate East Jerusalem village Sur Baher from the city.

The project, which was approved in 2011 by the ministry of interior, was frozen for "political reasons," the newspaper wrote. The plan has passed all the preliminary stages, Maariv wrote.

Further settlement expansion in what Israel calls Har Homa C is considered a "red line" by the Palestinian Authority and the US.

The report comes as Kerry is scheduled to meet PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Sunday, marking the third meeting between the two aimed at restarting peace talks that have been stalled for nearly three years.

Kerry met with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu a day earlier.

The PA broke off talks in September 2010 when Israel refused to extend a settlement construction moratorium in the West Bank.

Abbas has called for Israel to freeze settlement construction as a gesture to get the PA back to the negotiation table and has sought promises that Israel will abide by the principle of withdrawing from land it occupied in 1967.

Netanyahu has rejected such "preconditions" but says he is ready to return to talks.

(This version CORRECTS that Israel's Jerusalem Municipality's finance committee would be approving the plans, and not the planning and zoning committee.)
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