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Israel

Israel moves forward on Gilo settlement plan

Israel has taken another step towards approving a new settlement in Jerusalem. The move comes despite international protests against Israel’s ongoing construction of settlements.

Jersusalem's district planning and building committee said the planned settlement of Gilo on the southern outskirts of the city could go ahead without any major changes to the original plans, according to a report by Israel Radio. The committee is expected to give final approval to the project sometime in the next few months.

The planned location of the settlement is within the municipal boundary of Jerusalem as drawn up by the Israeli authorities but beyond the so-called "green line" that separates Israel from the occupied West Bank.

Israel Radio reported that the settlement was to include 940 housing units, but the watchdog group Peace Now claimed that 1,200 units were up for approval.

Controversial building

The latest settlement activity follows plans to build several thousand other housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank, including the controversial E1 area to the east of the city, which would effectively divide the West Bank in two.

Israel captured east Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War and considers the entire city its "eternal, undivided" capital. Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to make the capital of any future state, has never been recognized by the international community.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accelerated settlement plans since the United Nations General Assembly voted last month to upgrade Palestine to the status of a non-member observer state.

Last week, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Israel's plans to accelerate settlement building around Jerusalem would cool peace negotiations with the Palestinians that were already in "deep freeze."

"I call on Israel to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path, which will undermine the prospects for a resumption of dialogue and a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis alike," Ban said.

pfd/hc (dpa, AFP)