Jerusalem's city hall on Wednesday said it approved the construction of a new building for Jews in the heart of an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem, a move that quickly drew rebuke from Palestinian officials, who say encouraging settlement in the area is an obstacle to peace.
The planned three-story building will be erected in Silwan, one of the Arab areas of the city that in recent years has drawn Jewish residents who say they hope their presence will block any future division of the city.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it, a move not recognized by the international community. Israel considers all of Jerusalem its eternal, undivided capital and sees no distinction between building in its eastern or western sectors.
In a statement, the municipality said it "will continue to build in all neighborhoods."
The Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, home to the city's Arab population as well as key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as the capital of their hoped-for state. They see Jewish settlements there as an obstacle to peace.
"More facts on the ground mean more obstacles to peace," said Ahmad Rowadi, a Palestinian official.
About 200,000 Jews live in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem that the Palestinians and international community consider illegal settlements. About 300,000 Arabs also live in that part of the city.
The new building is part of a broader phenomenon in recent years that has seen Jews move into Arab areas like Silwan in a bid to make dividing the city all the more difficult. Hundreds of Jews now live in heavily guarded enclaves among tens of thousands of Palestinians, and their presence often inflames tensions with the Palestinian residents.