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Israel Approves 200 New Homes in East Jerusalem

FILE - A laborer works on an apartment building project in a Jewish settlement known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim in an area of the West Bank that Israel captured in the 1967 war and annexed to Jerusalem, Oct. 28, 2014.

Israeli authorities have approved 200 new homes in a Jewish area of East Jerusalem, a move sure to anger Palestinians as tensions between the two sides continue to grow.

A government spokeswoman said officials approved the houses Wednesday for the Ramot area on the northern edge of Jerusalem.

There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials. But U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States was deeply concerned. She said new Jewish settlement construction could worsen a difficult situation and would not contribute to efforts to reduce tensions.

Psaki also condemned an arson attack on a mosque in the West Bank on Wednesday, apparently carried out by Israeli extremists. She said hateful actions against a place of worship are never justified.

Secretary of State John Kerry plans to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a visit to Jordan on Thursday.

Much of the recent violence in Israel has stemmed from the dispute over the Temple Mount, a holy site that Muslims call the al-Aqsa mosque. It is revered by Muslims and Jews.

The long-simmering dispute over the site worsened this month when Israeli police shot dead a Palestinian gunman who had seriously wounded a U.S.-born rabbi. The rabbi had been part of a conference on expanding the rights of Jews to worship at the site.

Also Wednesday, Israel's foreign ministry said it had no intention of cooperating with a U.N. Human Rights Council investigation into this year's war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in the fighting.

A ministry spokesman said Israel believes the council already has made up its mind about Israel's guilt.

The U.N. condemned Israel for firing missiles into schools that the U.N. was using as civilian shelters.

Israel said Hamas was using civilians as human shields and launching rockets from near those U.N. sites.

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