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Palestinians Warn Israel of Legal Action on Settlement Plans

A top Palestinian is warning that the Palestinian Authority will seek relief from the International Criminal Court if Israel goes forward with plans to build housing on land Palestinians want for a future state.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Wednesday such action by his government will largely depend on what Israel decides to do with the so-called E-1 area outside the Arab suburbs of East Jerusalem.

Israel announced in November that it would build 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The announcement came after the U.N. General Assembly upgraded Palestinian status at the World Body to "non-member state." The new status allows the Palestinian Authority access to several international treaties and organizations, including the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.

The disputed land covers about 12 square kilometers and is considered particularly important because Israeli construction would block direct Arab access to East Jerusalem.

The ICC prosecutes charges of genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations. Experts say Palestinians could ask the court to investigate Israel for war crimes if it builds settlements on occupied lands.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the Security Council Washington opposes the Israeli construction plans. She said the housing would be "especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution" to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But Rice also reiterated U.S. displeasure at the Palestinians' elevated U.N. status and said Washington does not equate that status with statehood. The Obama administration has argued the only workable route to Palestinian statehood is through direct negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month that construction will take place in the disputed zone, which lies between East Jerusalem and a major West Bank Jewish settlement. But he said the planning process for 3,000 housing units has not yet been completed.

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