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Israel Approves 1,500 New Settler Homes in Illegally Occupied East Jerusalem

Ramat Shlomo (Photo: Wikipedia)

Ramat Shlomo (Photo: Wikipedia)

Hours after releasing 26 Palestinian prisoners, Israeli authorities approved the construction of more than 1,500 new settler homes in illegally-occupied East Jerusalem.

The 1,531 new homes will be built in the illegal settler colony of Ramat Shlomo, which Israel considers a neighborhood within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Three other illegal settlement expansion projects were also approved by Israeli authorities.

BBC reports the move is widely believed to be an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to placate Israelis angry over the government’s release of 26 Palestinian prisoners the previous night. Twenty-one of the prisoners were convicted of murdering Israelis during the course of Palestinian resistance against the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. The freed men are the second of four groups to be released over nine months as part of a US-brokered agreement to resume stalled direct peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The Washington Post reports the freed prisoners were greeted as heroes upon their returns to family, friends and officials in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority reacted to the Israeli settlement announcement by calling the move “destructive to peace efforts.”

“We are worried and concerned that if Israel continues with the expansion of settlements, this might kill the two states vision which we would like to see on this land,” Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated the illegal nature of Israel’s settlements, even while acknowledging the “difficult step” of releasing convicted murderers.

“Settlement activity is contrary to international law and constitutes an obstacle to peace,” he said.

Around 200,000 Jewish settler colonists currently live in East Jerusalem alongside 370,000 Palestinians. East Jerusalem was captured by Israeli forces during the 1967 Six Day War and has been illegally occupied, along with the West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights, ever since. The Gaza Strip was also conquered and occupied until 2005, when Israel withdrew, although Israel continues to largely control Gaza’s economy and sometimes conducts invasions and other military operations in a bid to stop Hamas militants from firing rockets into Israeli territory.

According to the United Nations, Jewish colonists have established around 150 official settlements in the occupied territories since 1967. An additional 100 or so settler outposts have also been built without official permission. In 1972, there were around 10,000 Israelis living in settlements. By 2008, that number had increased to more than half a million, with thousands of Jews settling on Palestinian land each year.

UN human rights official Richard Falk, an American, said in 2011 that Israeli settlement expansion “can only be described in its cumulative impact as a form of ethnic cleansing.

The UN has passed many resolutions condemning Israeli settlement activity, but the United States, Israel’s closest ally and main benefactor, has used its Security Council veto power to thwart the will of the international body.

Israeli settlers and other Zionists believe that ‘God’ promised the Jews, ‘His chosen people,’ all of Palestine, which was the site of ancient Jewish kingdoms. But from biblical times until well into the 20th century, Jews never numbered more than 10 percent of the population of what would become the modern state of Israel following a campaign of Zionist immigration and, later, terrorism and ethnic cleansing against Palestine’s British occupiers and indigenous Arabs in the 1930s and 1940s.

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