Israel on Wednesday approved the construction of 78 new homes in two settlements on West Bank land in occupied Jerusalem.
The move is likely to prompt Palestinian anger at a time when tensions between both parties have led to violence. The unrest began in April when peace-talks broke down and also led to the 50-day war between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip this past summer while more recently, sporadic acts of violence have erupted from each side.
Reuters reported that Jerusalem’s municipal planning committee authorised 50 new housing units in Har Homa and 28 in Ramot, according to a municipal spokeswoman.
In response to the move, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rdainah, said, “These decisions are a continuation of the Israeli government’s policy to cause more tension, push towards further escalation and waste any chance to create an atmosphere for calm.”
Disputes over Israeli access to the Al-Aqsa compound, which lies in the Israeli-occupied Old City of Jerusalem (Al-Quds), have further increased tensions between Palestinians and Israelis in recent weeks.
The location of the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is the holiest site in Judaism. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is also Islam’s third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
On Tuesday, two Palestinians killed four rabbis and a policeman at a Jerusalem synagogue, the worst attack in the city since 2008.
The Palestinians have also been angered by a recent slew of plans Israel has advanced for the construction of 4,000 housing units on West Bank land annexed to the city.
Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as their capital for a future state. All Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including those in East Jerusalem captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War, have been declared illegal under international law.