Israel approves permits for 82 settler homes in east Jerusalem
JERUSALEM - Building permits have been approved for 82 settler homes in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem under a plan that previously drew strong criticism from the United States, an NGO said Tuesday.
The 82 units in two buildings are part of plans announced in 2010 to build 1,600 settler homes in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in east Jerusalem.
The 2010 announcement came as US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel, provoking fierce American opposition and souring relations with Washington for months.
Israeli NGO Ir Amim, which opposes settlement construction, announced on Tuesday that permits had been approved for part of the plans.
"On Monday, June 6, the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee approved two building permits for 82 housing units in Ramat Shlomo," it said in a statement.
Jerusalem city officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Settlements are considered illegal under international law and a major stumbling block to peace efforts since they are built on land Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, while Israelis see all of Jerusalem as their capital.
Last week in Paris, representatives from 28 countries, the Arab League, European Union and United Nations met to discuss ways of restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
The participants agreed that "the status quo is unsustainable" and voiced "alarm" at the situation on the ground, citing continuing acts of violence and Jewish settlement building.
"This is Israel's response to the Paris peace summit," Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary-general Saeb Erekat said in a statement.
He said the approvals serve "as yet another reminder to the international community to hold Israel liable for the crimes it continues to commit against the land and people of Palestine."
Some 2.8 million Palestinians live in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem in near constant tension with some 600,000 Israeli settlers.