Israel advances construction for 323 settlement homes in Jerusalem

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Israel authorities have advanced plans for 323 housing units in Jewish settlement neighborhoods in annexed east Jerusalem, officials and rights groups said on Wednesday.

A statement released by Ir Amim, an Israeli rights organization based in Jerusalem, said the move includes the issuing of a new tender for building 89 homes in Gilo, a Jewish settlement neighbored in southern east Jerusalem.

Additional three tenders were issued for new homes in other settlement neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. According to Peace Now, an Israeli settlement watchdog, these tenders include 36 housing units in Neve Yaacov, 68 in Pisgat Ze'ev, and 130 in Har Homa.

A spokeswoman for the municipality of Jerusalem said in a statement that the plans are not new and were approved three years ago.

According to Peace Now, these three tenders are for homes that have been tendered in the past but were never built.

"Although the government tried to build these units in the past, it never did so and thus the government is now initiating entirely new construction," a spokesperson for the group said in a statement.

The new tender in Gilo came less than a week after Israel announced the approval of the "reparcelization" of the Gilo Southern Slopes, where it plans to construct 770 new housing units. The "reparcelization" is a technical step required ahead of the construction.

Israeli official construction plans show that Israel wants to build in Gilo Southern Slopes 1,241 new housing units in total, which will expand Gilo towards the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Jala.

In April 2014, Israel published a tender for 708 housing units in another part of Gilo, a move that was internationally criticized and the Palestinians condemned it as a primary reason for the collapse of the last round of the U.S.-brokered peace talks in the same month.

The move came a day after overnight demolitions of 20 unauthorized buildings in Palestinian villages in east Jerusalem.

Since Israel occupied east Jerusalem, together with the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it has initiated and planned the construction of 55,000 housing units for Israelis in east Jerusalem, according to Peace Now.

"At the same time, it planned and initiated only 700 units for Palestinians," the group said.

In 1980, Israel annexed east Jerusalem and declared it as part of its "eternal and indivisible capital," in a move that has never been recognized by the international community. The settlements are illegal under international law. Endit

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