Jerusalem – Israel announced plans Wednesday to build more than 1,500 homes in Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, dealing a setback to newly relaunched peace efforts hours after it had freed a group of long-serving Palestinian prisoners.
The construction plans drew angry condemnations from Palestinian officials, who accused Israel of undermining the U.S.-led talks by expanding settlements on the lands where they hope to establish an independent state. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also condemned the Israeli decision, and Washington said it would not create a “positive environment” for the negotiations.
Israel had freed the 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of a U.S.-brokered agreement to restart the talks. The construction was meant to blunt anger over the release of the prisoners, all of whom had been convicted of murder in the deaths of Israelis.
Rebel stronghold falls to army
Bunagana, Congo – The Congolese army retook one of the last remaining strongholds of the M23 rebels Wednesday, with fighters running for the hills as the military sought to extinguish the 18-month-old insurrection, officials said.
As the army retook the town of Bunagana, leaving the M23 with a small sliver of territory, the civilian leader of the rebel movement fled Congo, crossing the border into Uganda and prompting calls for his extradition.
The recapture of Bunagana comes just days after the U.N. special representative said: “We are witnessing the military end of the M23.”
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