(adds lines on home demolitions, Palestinian reaction)
JERUSALEM Feb 5 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
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 the
U.S.-sponsored peace talks that resumed in July after a
The municipality spokeswoman said that the initial plans for
the new dwellings were 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.
Also on Wednesday, Israeli authorities demolished three
Palestinian homes they said were built without permits in
occupied East Jerusalem, displacing five families.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation
Organization, called the moves a "deliberate provocation of the
Palestinians to drive them to leave the negotiations."
"Israel is not only capable of sabotaging the talks, but it
is flagrantly destroying the chances of peace and stability
throughout the region," she said in a statement.
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
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Noah Browning in
Ramallah, Writing by Maayan Lubell, Editing by Jeffrey Heller)