Israel to build 186 new illegal settler homes in Jerusalem

Palestinian children (top) look on as an Israeli settler dressed up and wearing a mask takes part in a parade to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim in al-Shuhada Street, in the West Bank town of Hebron, on March 16, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Menahem Kahana)

Published Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Updated at 4:30 pm: Israel moved forward Wednesday with plans to build another 186 new homes in annexed east Jerusalem, a city councilor told AFP.

The plans would see construction of 40 new homes in Pisgat Zeev and 146 in Har Homa, both of them settlement neighborhoods built on territory seized by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War, Yosef Pepe Alalu said.

Despite ongoing peace talks with the Palestinian Authority which started in July, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem has gone unabated.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi called on the international community to rein in Israeli building.

"It is has become evident that Israel has done everything possible to destroy the ongoing negotiations and to provoke violence and extremism throughout the region," she said.

"Israel is deliberately breaching international law and conventions, and it is time that all states undertake punitive measures to hold Israel accountable."

Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law.

Lior Amihai, a spokesman for the settlement watchdog Peace Now, said "this is a sad decision by the Jerusalem municipality, with the government's approval, to advance the construction of 186 new homes in east Jerusalem as the international community is trying to keep the negotiations alive."

Data from Starts Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics revealed earlier this month that settlement building in the West Bank increased by 123.7 percent in 2013.

The number of settlers living in the West Bank rose to 375,000 in January 2014 from 360,000 at the same time the year before, according to ministry statistics.

The figure excluded the nearly 200,000 settlers living in annexed east Jerusalem.

Palestinians have been infuriated by the ongoing construction, which has seen Israel advance plans for more than 11,800 new settler homes since the talks started, and they have balked at any talk of extending the nine-month negotiating period that ends late April.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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