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Israel okays 50 new settler homes in East Jerusalem

May 26, 2014 3:43 P.M. (Updated: May 27, 2014 2:42 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel on Monday approved plans for 50 new settler homes in annexed East Jerusalem as Pope Francis wrapped up a visit to the region, city officials said.

"The municipality has given the green light to build 50 new housing units in five buildings in Har Homa," city Councillor Yosef Pepe Alalu told AFP.

Har Homa is a settlement neighborhood in the southern sector of East Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War then annexed, in a move not recognized by the international community.

The settlement was built in 1997 on a wooded hill top known as Jabal Abu Ghneim.

It was the first such announcement of Israeli plans to build on land seized in 1967 since the collapse last month of the US-led peace talks.

The talks had struggled to make headway due to an unrelenting flow of Israeli settlement announcements, which were roundly condemned by the PLO and international community.

Figures quoted by Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now show that during the nine months of talks, Israel approved plans for nearly 14,000 new settler homes.

The last time Israel pushed plans for new construction was on April 1 with the re-issuing of tenders for more than 700 new homes in Gilo in East Jerusalem.

The PLO has said they will not return to the crisis-hit talks without a complete settlement freeze.

But Israel has flatly refused, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejecting the notion that settlement building ran counter to peace efforts, saying he never agreed to any "restraints on construction" throughout the talks.
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