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Israel announces 1,500 new settler homes in East Jerusalem

Oct. 30, 2013 11:30 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 31, 2013 10:05 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (AFP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Gideon Saar agreed to build 1,500 new homes in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo early Wednesday, army radio said, hours after 26 Palestinian prisoners were released from jail.

Last week, an Israeli official said new tenders were to be announced in the large settlement blocs and in East Jerusalem "in the coming months" as part of "understandings" reached with both the Palestinians and Washington.

Speaking before the army radio's report, Abbas reiterated the Palestinians' denial that the prisoner release was part of an agreement to allow Israel more settlement building.

"There are some living among us who say that we have a deal (to release prisoners) in exchange for settlement building, and I say to them, be silent."

The release of the 26 prisoners was part of a four-stage deal to coincide with the PLO's return to peace negotiations in July.

A first group of 26 prisoners was freed on August 13.

Israel announced plans for more than 2,000 new settler homes in tandem with the August prisoner release, causing outrage among PLO officials.

The spokesman for European Union foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton warned at the time that Israeli approvals for settlements in the West Bank threatened to render peace talks with Palestinians "impossible".

The last round of direct peace talks broke down just weeks after they were launched in September 2010 in a bitter row over settlements.

There are still 5,007 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, including 137 administrative detainees, 12 women and 180 children, according to prisoners support group Addameer.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report
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