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Israel Plans To Build 900 More Settlement Homes

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

An Israeli official says the Jewish state is moving forward with a plan to build nearly 900 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Efrat Orbach confirmed on August 13 that approval had been granted for expanding the neighborhood of Gilo.

The plan is in addition to Israel's announcement on August 11 of some 1,200 other settlement housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

This development comes as a new round of U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are set to begin on August 14.

Washington has expressed "serious concerns" about Israel's plans to build more settlements.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Washington on August 12 that the White House did not accept "the legitimacy of continued settlement activity."

But on the same day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Palestinians "not to react adversely" to Israel's move.

Speaking during a trip to Colombia, Kerry stressed the need for both Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

A previous round of talks broke down in 2010 due to Palestinian anger over Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Washington fears more settlement building by Israel could derail the peace process.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP