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Israel approves 1,500 new settlements in occupied Jerusalem

Immediately after the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, Israel announced plans to build 1,500 new settlements in the occupied Palestinian city of Jerusalem, as well as the construction of a new park near Silwan.

As part of a deal with the Palestinian Authority (PA), earlier this week Israel released the second batch of Palestinian prisoners who were jailed before the 1993 Oslo agreement, numbering 26 out of the 104 prisoners in total who will eventually be released.

Only hours after celebrating their release in Ramallah, where the PA President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a speech promising not to leave any Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the occupation authorities announced the new settlement plans.

The decision to build new 1,500 units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement is part of an agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar to advance four construction areas in different parts of occupied Jerusalem.

According to Israeli media, the agreement includes establishing another tourist and archeological centre, as well as a national park, on the eastern side of the Hebrew University campus near Wadi Al-Hilwa in occupied Jerusalem.

Last week the Associated Press reported that an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that the Americans and Palestinians were both aware of Israel's intentions regarding the new settlements, which were made clear before talks resumed.

Israel's Channel 10 television reported that Netanyahu is planning to carry out similar steps when other prisoners are released. The report said that the settlements are intended to compensate extremist Israeli officials for agreeing to the prisoner release. Many right wing Israelis have rejected the release of prisoners calling them "murderers".

According to Channel 10, Netanyahu hopes to build 4,000 to 5,000 new settlements in return for the release of 104 Palestinians prisoners, who have been suffering in Israeli jails for more than 20 years.

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