Israel approves plans for 500 settler homes in Jerusalem: NGO

The units, which the government said Thursday it was 'planning,' were approved by the interior ministry

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Israel approved Monday plans for some 500 new settler homes in occupied east Jerusalem, a watchdog said, a week after a government pledge to build the structures drew Palestinian ire.

The interior ministry gave the go-ahead for the units, which are located in the existing settlement of Ramat Shlomo in volatile east Jerusalem, the Peace Now non-governmental organisation told AFP.

"The... decision on the 500 homes in the Ramat Shlomo settlement come after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement last week that he would accelerate construction in east Jerusalem," Peace Now spokeswoman Hagit Ofran said.

Netanyahu's office pledged on October 27 to build more than 1,000 new settler homes -- more than 600 in Ramat Shlomo and around another 400 in Har Homa, another east Jerusalem settlement.

The announcement infuriated the Palestinians, who want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and came after Israel's ally the United States warned the Jewish state over its controversial settlements policy.

The State Department has said it is "deeply concerned" over settlement building, and the White House warned last month that continued settlement plans would "distance Israel from even its closest allies".

The settlements issue has derailed round upon round of failed Middle East peace talks, most recently in April after a nine-month concerted push by Washington to bring about a peace agreement.

Israel captured Arab east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it, in a move never recognised by the international community.

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