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Sunday, February 26, 2017

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Jerusalem municipality, undeterred by a U.N. anti-settlement resolution, is due to consider on Wednesday requests for construction permits for hundreds of new homes for Israelis in areas that Israel captured in 1967 and annexed to the city.

Israel is still fuming over the resolution approved last Friday by the United Nations Security Council that demands an end to settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel has also described as “shameful” the decision of its long-standing ally the United States to abstain in the vote rather than wield its veto. The Obama administration is a strong opponent of the settlements.

An agenda published by Jerusalem City Hall listed applications for at least 390 new homes whose approval looks certain to intensify international and Palestinian opposition to the Israeli settlement-building.

The Municipal Planning and Construction panel usually meets on Wednesdays and the permit requests were filed before the Security Council resolution.

Settler leaders and their supporters have been urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step up construction in East Jerusalem, accusing him of having slowed its pace last year because of international pressure.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported on Tuesday that 1,506 housing units for Israelis have already been approved in East Jerusalem this year, compared with 395 in 2015.

The Jerusalem municipality said in a statement on Tuesday it would “continue to develop the capital according to zoning and building codes, without prejudice, for the benefit of all residents”.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem its united capital, a stance not supported by the international community. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

Some 570,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, in settlements that most countries consider to be illegal and the United States terms illegitimate. Israel disputes that, citing historical, political and Biblical links to the areas, as well as security concerns.

The new U.N. resolution changes nothing on the ground between Israel and the Palestinians and will probably be all but ignored by the incoming U.S. administration of Donald Trump.

However, Israeli officials fear it could spur further Palestinian moves against Israel in international forums.

A U.S. official said after Friday’s vote that Washington’s decision to abstain was prompted mainly by concern that Israel would continue to accelerate settlement construction and put a two-state solution of the conflict with the Palestinians at risk.

The U.S.-backed peace talks have been stalled since 2014.

(Additional reporting by Ori Lewis; Editing by Gareth Jones)

IMAGE: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office December 25, 2016. REUTERS/Dan Balilty/Pool

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