On eve of Kerry visit, Israel approves construction of new homes in east Jerusalem settlement

An Israeli planning committee has given the final approval for construction of dozens of new homes in a settlement in east Jerusalem.

The decision could cast a cloud over the upcoming mission of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry has been trying to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He urged both sides to avoid provocative actions. The Palestinians demand a halt in settlement construction.

In a statement, the Jerusalem municipality said the homes were part of a previously announced project in the Har Homa area of east Jerusalem. It said Wednesday's decision also approved new construction of homes in Arab neighborhoods of the city.

Peace Now, a watchdog group that opposes settlement construction, said the approval cleared the way for construction of 69 homes within weeks.