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Israel Approves Plans for 1,300 New Settler Homes in East Jerusalem


Israel has announced plans to build 1,300 new homes for Jewish settlers in the disputed eastern sector of Jerusalem.

Israeli officials said Friday the new homes will be built in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.

Palestinian officials condemned the project, saying it shows the Israeli government wants to destroy peace.

The internationally-backed "road map" for peace between the two sides requires Israel to freeze all settlement activity. But Israel does not consider Jerusalem neighborhoods to have the same status as Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli government says it intends to keep Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem as part of a peace deal.

Earlier this month, Israel announced plans to build nearly 900 homes in Har Homa and Pisgat Ze'ev, neighborhoods built on land that Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast war.

In other news, the Palestinian militant group Hamas says a house explosion in the Gaza Strip Thursday that killed seven people was an accident.

The group says in an online statement Friday that the powerful blast occurred while its members were preparing to carry out a bomb attack.

Initially, Hamas blamed the Israeli military for the blast and fired about 50 rockets and mortars into southern Israel, wounding an Israeli woman. Israel denied involvement and said the blast may have been caused by militants mishandling explosives.

The explosion destroyed a two-story house in the town of Beit Lahiya, killing six Hamas members, including a commander, Ahmed Hamouda, as well as the commander's four-month-old baby. The blast also injured more than 20 other people.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.