Israel continues settlement expansion on peace talks eve
JERUSALEM - Jerusalem's municipality has approved 942 new settlement units for annexed east Jerusalem, a local official said Tuesday, on the eve of the scheduled resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.
The units are in addition to the more than 1,000 settlement homes approved by Israel on Sunday, in a move that has angered the Palestinians and drawn fire from the international community.
"The Jerusalem municipality has approved a construction plan for 942 homes in Gilo," an existing settlement in east Jerusalem, deputy mayor Yosef Pepe Alalu said.
"This is a terrible decision which is a provocation against the Palestinians, the Americans and the whole world who oppose continued settlement building," the leftwing municipal councillor said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who convinced the two sides to return to the negotiating table after a three-year hiatus, urged the Palestinians "not to react adversely" to Israel's approval on Sunday for new homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The last round of direct talks broke down when Israel refused to halt its settlement construction on occupied Palestinian territory.
Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said the Jerusalem municipality was also mulling the construction of another 300 homes at a later stage.
"The government is doing all it can to sabotage peace talks even before they've started," Peace Now's spokesman said.
More than 200,000 Israeli settlers live in east Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel following the Six Day War of 1967, when the Jewish state also took over the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights.