JERUSALEM – Israel announced plans to build hundreds of homes in the West Bank and disputed east Jerusalem, drawing Palestinian condemnation just days before a visit by a U.S. general to monitor the troubled peace process.

Housing Minister Zeev Boim said the new housing would include 350 apartments in Givat Zeev, a West Bank settlement just outside of Jerusalem, and 750 homes in the Pisgat Zeev neighborhood of east Jerusalem.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Boim said the Givat Zeev construction initially began some eight years ago, but was suspended because of fighting with the Palestinians.

“When violence subsided, demand grew again and contractors renewed their permits to build there,” he said. The Pisgat Zeev construction, he added, “is inside Jerusalem’s city borders.”

Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. It immediately annexed east Jerusalem and considers all of the city its capital. The annexation has not been recognized internationally.

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem as parts of a future independent state. But Israel has said it wants to keep large settlement blocs, along with Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, under any final peace agreement.

The Givat Zeev construction “is consistent with our long-standing position that building within the large settlement blocs, which will stay a part of Israel in any final status agreement, will continue,” said government spokesman Mark Regev said.

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