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Israeli leader vows to push forward with east Jerusalem settlement projects

Israel's prime minister has rejected international criticism of plans to build thousands of settlement homes in east Jerusalem, insisting construction will move forward.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel, and we will continue to build there." He said Israelis overwhelmingly believed in "united Jerusalem," referring to Jewish west Jerusalem and east Jerusalem, annexed by Israel but claimed by the Palestinians.

Netanyahu has come under heavy international criticism since announcing plans to build thousands of homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank in response to last month's decision by the U.N. to upgrade the Palestinians' observer status. The Palestinians claim both areas.

On Monday, a plan to build 1,500 homes in east Jerusalem cleared an intermediate stage of planning.