JERUSALEM: Israel has advanced the planning of more than 1,000 new Jewish settler homes in annexed East Jerusalem, an official said Monday, sparking a Palestinian warning of an “explosion” of violence.
“The government has decided to advance the planning of more than 1,000 units in Jerusalem—roughly 400 in Har Homa and about 600 in Ramat Shlomo,” the official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told AFP, referring to two existing East Jerusalem settlements.
He did not elaborate and declined to comment on the likely political and diplomatic impact of such a move at a time when Palestinians and the international community are already incensed at latest settler moves in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where there have been almost nightly clashes for months.
Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, warned of violent consequences likely to follow the latest settlement plans.
“Such unilateral acts will lead to an explosion,” he told a gathering of foreign journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“If he wants to keep pushing us all into a vicious circle of bloodshed and killing he must draw the right conclusion from what happened in Gaza,” Rajoub added, referring to the devastating 50-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in and around the coastal strip in July and August.
On Sunday, police in Jerusalem used tear gas against hundreds of Palestinians taking part in a “symbolic funeral” there of 21-year-old Abdelrahman Shaludi, a Silwan resident who killed two people, including a baby, when he rammed his car into Jerusalem pedestrians last week.
One Palestinian was arrested at the mock funeral and another two were detained for allegedly throwing stones in Issawiya, another neighborhood of mainly Arab East Jerusalem, police said.
Police on Monday said they arrested eight more alleged rioters overnight.
Shaludi was shot dead by police as he tried to flee the scene of what they called the “terror attack” last Wednesday.
Clashes continued around East Jerusalem until his body was actually interred late Sunday night under draconian Israeli security restrictions, with the number of mourners restricted to 50.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said that more than 20 Palestinians were injured during the night but did not give a breakdown.
With the latest Israeli green light for expansion, Lior Amichai of settlement watchdog Peace Now told AFP: “There is never a good time to do such things, now more than ever as Jerusalem is burning.”
Previous plans to build at Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlement near the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat, were announced during a March 2010 visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, sparking outrage in Washington, which had been trying to revive peace talks at the time.
Moves toward a further round of fresh construction there were reported last October, ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry aimed at pushing the peace process forward.
Amichai said it was unclear from Monday’s statement whether the government was close to issuing construction tenders or wanted to fast-track plans in their early stages.
Ties between Israel and its close ally, the United States, have become increasingly frayed over Israeli officials’ public criticism of U.S. foreign policy and the Obama administration’s alarm at Netanyahu’s relentless settlement-building.
The Israeli official also said that plans would be “advanced for infrastructure projects in the West Bank that will include roads for the Palestinians.”