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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday announced thousands of houses would be built for Jewish residents in East Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu said during a tour of the Har Homa neighbourhood that the construction of 4,000 housing units had been approved.

“Also, 1,000 for Arab residents in the Palestinian town of Beit Safafa, and 3,000 new homes for Jewish residents in the settlement of Givat Hamatos.

“In addition, 2,200 units would be built in the Har Homa settlement.

“We did this then in the face of strong international opposition. We are going to build the Givat Hamatos neighbourhood, we have removed all of the impediments,’’ the prime minister said.

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Mr Netanyahu’s announcement, less than two weeks until elections, marks a reversal of an apparent halt in controversial construction plans in Givat Hamatos in response to international criticism.

The Israeli non-governmental organisation Peace Now, an advocate of a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, slammed Netanyahu’s plans as “state suicide.”

“Both settlements sever parts of East Jerusalem and the connection to Bethlehem, preventing a viable two-state solution,’’ the group said.

Since the unveiling of the Trump administration’s Middle East plan, which would give Israel a green light to extend its sovereignty over 30 per cent of the West Bank, including all Israeli settlements, Netanyahu has been pressured to annex them before March 2 elections.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan along with the rest of the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war, as the capital of their future state.

(dpa/NAN)

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