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Jerusalem settlement plans condemned

Switzerland is "extremely concerned" about Israeli plans to extend the Jewish settlement of Gilo in East Jerusalem, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

It called on the Israeli government to halt the extension and to end all settlement projects in occupied Palestinian territory.

"East Jerusalem is an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel is obliged by international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of the civilian population," a ministry statement says.

It adds that Switzerland believes that settlement projects and the destruction of Palestinian homes "violate international humanitarian law, which prohibits an occupying power from destroying property or from re-settling civilians in the occupied territory."

These provisions are contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention, of which Switzerland is the holding state.

The foreign ministry also points out that Israeli settlement activity is incompatible with a genuine peace process leading to a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The United States, Russia and the European Union have also deplored the plans for the extension of Gilo.

Israeli ministers and the leader of the opposition have rejected the criticism.

East Jerusalem was captured by Israel in 1967 and subsequently annexed in a move not recognised by the international community. The settlement of Gilo, built on land confiscated from Palestinians, currently has a population of 30,000.