Israel pushes on with plans for hundreds of settlement homes

JERUSALEM Wed Feb 5, 2014 8:20am EST

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JERUSALEM Feb 5 (Reuters) - Israel's Jerusalem municipality approved building plans on Wednesday for 558 new homes in the occupied West Bank, land that the Palestinians want for a future state.

A municipality spokeswoman said the local planning committee had approved requests by private contractors for the construction work in the settlements of Har Homa, Neve Yaakov and Pisgat Zeev.

The three settlements are in a part of the West Bank that Israel annexed to Jerusalem, in a move that has not been recognised internationally, after capturing the territory in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Palestinians have said that expansion of Israeli settlements, which most countries deem illegal, could derail U.S.-sponsored peace talks which resumed in July after a three-year break.

The municipality spokeswoman said that the initial plans for the new dwellings had been approved years ago.

The Palestinians are seeking a state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, and the enclave is now run by Hamas Islamists opposed to the present peace drive.

Har Homa and Pisgat Zeev are in one of the areas in the West Bank that Israel says it intends to keep in any future land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians.

Three weeks ago, Israel published tenders for 1,400 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now said at that time that Israel had announced plans for 5,349 new homes in those two areas since the peace talks restarted. (Writing by Maayan Lubell, Editing by Jeffrey Heller)

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