Israel approves 1,500 more housing units in east Jerusalem
The new homes are to be built in the Ramat Shlomo settlement. The decision comes just days after the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners. For Israeli officials, the new units are part of a deal with the United States and the Palestinians. The latter deny any such agreement.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Israeli government has approved the construction of an additional 1,500 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement, in east Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Gideon Saar announced the plan right after Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners, as part of a deal brokered by the United States to encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

In August, Israel had announced plans for more than 2,000 new homes along with the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners arrested before the Oslo Accord.

Last week, an Israeli official said that new settlement blocs would be built in east Jerusalem "in the coming months" as part of "understandings" reached with both the Palestinians and the Americans.

The Palestinians - who view continued settlement construction as a major obstacle to peace - flatly denied any such understandings.

According to Israeli media, Netanyahu and Saar also decided to go ahead with two other east Jerusalem projects: an archaeological and tourist centre just outside the Old City walls and a national park on the slopes of Mount Scopus in the West Bank.