Israel okays 50 new settler homes in east Jerusalem
Israel approves plans for 50 new settler homes in occupied east Jerusalem as Pope Francis wraps up a visit to the region
Israel on Monday approved plans for 50 new settler homes in occupied 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 councilor Yosef Pepe Alalu told AFP.
Har Homa is a settlement neighborhood in the southern sector of Arab east Jerusalem which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel annexed the area, in a move not recognized by the international community.
It was the first such announcement of Israeli plans to build on land seized in 1967 since the collapse last month of the U.S.-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 Palestinians.
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 Palestinians have 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.