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Middle East

Israel ‘undermines peace talks’ by approving 558 apartments in occupied east Jerusalem

Approvals labeled 'shameful' at a time when negotiations are at a sensitive stage

Israeli planners have given final approval for 558 apartments in Jewish settlements in occupied east Jerusalem, which is sought by the Palestinians as a capital, officials said.

Palestinian officials said the decision undermines fragile US-brokered negotiations with Israel on setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The Jerusalem municipality said its planning committee approved building permits in the neighbourhoods of Har Homa, Neve Yaakov and Pisgat Zeev, built on land Israel captured in the 1967 war and later annexed. The international community considers them illegal settlements.

 Brachie Sprung, a municipality spokeswoman, said the building projects received initial approval a few years ago and that new building in Arab areas of Jerusalem was also approved today.

At the same time, the municipality carried out a court order and demolished three Arab homes in east Jerusalem which were built without permits, Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said. Arab protesters hurled stones at police guarding the area and three people were arrested.

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said Israel is undermining US efforts. Lior Amihai, of the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, said the new approvals are “shameful” at a time when negotiations are at a sensitive stage.