Middle East

Israel green-lights 1,500 settler homes in East Jerusalem

A Palestinian man argues with an Israeli soldier after clashes between Palestinian farmers and Israeli settlers near Nablus.

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel approved plans Monday to build 1,500 more Jewish settler homes in East Jerusalem, an official said, days after provoking international protests against a project for another 3,000 such homes on land it occupied in the 1967 war.

Spokeswoman Efrat Orbach said the Interior Ministry’s planning committee had told the applicants to trim their request to build 1,600 new housing units at Ramat Shlomo to 1,500 and resubmit it “for final approval.”

The Palestinian leadership responded by saying it would seek a U.N. Security Council meeting on the Israeli plans to build the new settler homes.

The leadership was about to take “important and necessary measures against Israel’s settlement building, including recourse to the U.N. Security Council, to prevent implementation of these decisions,” President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.

The Israeli plan caused a diplomatic rift with Washington when it was first announced in 2010.

It has lain dormant since August 2011 but two weeks ago the ministry announced that it had been revived.

Orbach said that at a Monday’s meeting, the committee heard public objections and told to make changes.

“It reduced the plan from 1,600 to 1,500 and now the plan has to be resubmitted and meet the conditions in order to get final approval,” she said. “It could take months more, or years.”

Palestinians see Israeli settlements as obstacles to achieving independent statehood. The settlements have been condemned by the international community.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms these Israeli actions and the determination of Israel to continue expanding settlements and in the process undermining the two-state solution,” said senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat.

“These are very dangerous and alarming steps. The Israeli government is showing its determination to contravene the will of the international community,” the top peace negotiator said.

As Israel announced that it would revive the controversial plan, Jewish residents of the hard-line Yitzhar settlement just south of Nablus clashed with shepherds from the nearby village of Madama, one of whom was hit in the leg by a bullet, a local official said.

Madama local council head Ehab al-Qat told AFP a 27-year-old shepherd was shot in the leg and his brother “was beaten by settlers.”

The Israeli military said it was a soldier who shot the Palestinian, after a stone-throwing crowd ignored orders to disperse.

In another incident, Israeli naval forces shot and wounded a Palestinian fisherman in waters off the northern Gaza Strip, sources on both sides said.

Nizar Aayesh, head of the Gaza fishermen’s union, said the man was wounded when navy gunfire hit his boat. The man was taken to hospital in the Israeli port city of Ashkelon.

The military insisted the boat had been beyond the permitted fishing limit.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 18, 2012, on page 9.




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