11/04/2014, 00.00
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Israel reopens Gaza crossings but gives green light to new homes in East Jerusalem

The Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings reopen after being closed following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip. Washington is "deeply concerned" with the plan to build 500 new homes in Ramat Shlomo settlement. Knesset adopts a law that makes prisoner release and swap very difficult.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Israel reopened the border crossings with Gaza Strip at Erez (pictured) and Kerem Shalom, the Defence Ministry announced today. The two crossings had been closed after a rocket fired from Gaza landed in Israeli territory on Friday, breaking the truce. No casualties or damage were reported.

In contrast to this decision, bound to reduce tensions, Israeli authorities gave the green light to 500 new houses in the Ramat Shlomo settlement, in ​​East Jerusalem, and the Knesset adopted a law to prevent the release of "terrorists" involved in killings.

The announcement by Israel's Interior Ministry infuriated the Palestinians, who want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and came after Israel's ally the United States warned Israel over its controversial settlements policy.

The State Department said last month that it was "deeply concerned" over settlement building. For the White House, continued settlement plans would "distance Israel from even its closest allies".

Meanwhile, a law to prevent some murderers from being released in diplomatic negotiations passed in the Knesset on Monday.

As it stands, it creates an additional obstacle for a peace deal because it would make it harder for Israel to agree to a prisoners swap, a common practice in dealings with Palestinians.

According to the new law, a special paroles board would be able to consider cases involving terrorist attacks or murder of children after at least 15 years of the sentence have passed, and would not be able to recommend commuting prisoners' sentences to less than 40 years.

In such a case, a murderer would never be released as part of diplomatic negotiations unless they served at least a 40-year sentence.

The law, which does not apply to current prisoners, states that the government would not have the authority to approve early release of prisoners in the event of a prisoner swap deal.

However, the legislation does not negate the president's authority to grant pardons.

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See also
Israel approves 1,500 more housing units in east Jerusalem
Embargo against Gaza eases as UN holds special session
Shalit is freed: delivered to the Egyptians. Release of Palestinians begins
Israel’s government gives go-ahead to more than 200 new units in the West Bank
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