Israel approves the building of 600 new homes in East Jerusalem (Al-Quds), the latest in a series of projects Tel Aviv has given the go-ahead to despite a 10-month construction freeze.
The new housing units are planned to be erected near Pisgat Zeev, one of a dozen Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem (Al-Quds), and the Palestinian neighborhood of Shuafat.
The number was scaled back to 600 from the original 1,100 after it came into light that much of the land was owned privately by Palestinians, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported.
The news follows demolition orders delivered earlier in the week to families living in two homes in the adjacent Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina and eight other families in Silwan.
The Israeli advocacy group Ir Amim, which monitors housing issues in Arab neighborhoods, revealed Israeli authorities have also approved a plan to construct a new settlement on Palestinian land in the town of Beit Safafa, west of the road that links Jerusalem (Al-Quds) to Hebron Al-Khalil.
The so-called Plan 5834B will interconnect the existing settlements in South Al-Quds including Har Homa and Gilo, and is widely viewed to serve as a "demographic wedge" between Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem (Al-Quds) and the rest of the West Bank.
Tel Aviv’s green light to the settlement expansions comes in contrast to a 10-month moratorium announced in November under breaking pressure from the international community.
The temporary ban — largely seen as a strategic ploy — does not apply to occupied East Jerusalem (Al-Quds) and allows construction of schools, synagogues and what Tel Aviv deems as community centers.
The construction activities have been a major obstacle to resumption of Middle East peace talks with the Palestinians, who have been demanding a permanent and full freeze on Israeli settlement expansion projects in the West Bank and Jerusalem (Al-Quds).
Palestinians are denied Israeli citizenship in Jerusalem (Al-Quds), which Israel occupied during the six-day war in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.
The International Court of Justice, the legal arm of the United Nations, has ruled all the settlements Israel has built in occupied territory to be illegal under international law.