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UN tells Israel to cancel plans for thousands of settler homes
The United Nations on Wednesday called on Israel to cancel plans to build thousands of new settler homes in the occupied Palestinian territories, warning it could be "an almost fatal blow" to peace hopes.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon's political chief also told the UN Security Council that Israel must resume the transfer of frozen tax and customs money to the struggling Palestinian Authority "without delay."
The Israeli government on Wednesday issued tenders to build another 1,048 settler homes in occupied east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, housing ministry spokesman Ariel Rosenberg told AFP.
Rosenberg told AFP that an unspecified number of homes would go up in the east Jerusalem settlement suburb of Har Homa, but construction would be "mainly in Beitar, Karnei Shomron, Givat Zeev and Efrat," in the West Bank.
An Israeli committee also approved plans to build 2,610 new homes in a settlement in east Jerusalem. The decision is only valid after a 15 day waiting period, after which they can start issuing tenders.
Peace Now, an Israeli NGO, had said Tuesday that Netanyahu’s government was “setting as many facts on the ground as possible before the election.”
The NGO had said that the planning authorities were working on approving the building of some 6,600 illegal settler units in occupied East Jerusalem within the next four days.
If the Israelis go ahead with their plan to build in Givat Hamatos, where they plan to install 2610 settler units, Peace Now said the Israelis would “complete the isolation of East Jerusalem from the Southern parts of the West Bank.”
The wave of illegal settlements comes as claimed Israeli reprisal for the Palestinians’ successful upgrade at the UN to non-member statehood.
Punishment of the Palestinians for their move at the UN General Assembly started with an announcement of 3,000 new tenders to be built on the sensitive E1 strip. This area had previously been off-limits because it was said that building there would destroy all possibility for a two-state solution.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Palestinian government employees in the West Bank went on a two-day general strike to protest against a delay in the payment of their wages because of Israel’s confiscation of public funds.
Israel has been withholding from the Palestinians some $100 million in monthly customs revenues, as part of their retaliatory efforts for the UN upgrade.
Around 50,000 workers took part in Wednesday's strike.
"This strike is against Israel's piracy," said Bassam Zakarneh, chief of the government employees' union said.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Ma’an)
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