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E. Jerusalem construction announced as Palestinian prisoners freed

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Construction plans for eastern Jerusalem settlements were announced as 26 Palestinian prisoners were released.

The plans for construction were announced after midnight Tuesday night as 21 Palestinian prisoners freed from Israeli jails were greeted in Ramallah in the West Bank by thousands of family members and well-wishers. Also, as another five were reunited with their families in Gaza.

The plans reportedly were announced concurrently with the prisoner release in a bid to calm critics from the right.

According to reports, the construction plans include a national park in areas east of the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus between the Palestinian neighborhoods of Isawiyah and A-Tur; the Kedem Center, a tourism and archaeological center in the Palestinian village of Silwan opposite the entrance to the City of David; renewing a plan initially announced in 2010 to build 1,500 housing units in Ramat Shlomo; and issuing permits to construct additional rooms on existing housing in Ramat Shlomo.

The spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said the announcement “destroys the peace process and sends the international community the message that Israel does not respect international law.”

Abbas greeted the released prisoners in Ramallah in front of Yasser Arafat’s mausoleum, where Abbas vowed that there will be no peace deal as long as there are Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The release came hours after Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal against freeing the prisoners, who had caused the deaths of Israelis, saying it had no legal reason to stop the release.

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