Top news: Israel gave preliminary approval Monday for the construction of 1,500 new homes in east Jerusalem, only weeks after it announced plans for 3,000 new settler homes in retaliation for the Palestinian Authority's unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations. Monday's decision revives plans to build ultra-Orthodox neighborhood Ramat Shlomo -- the settlement plan that Israel announced during Vice President Joseph Biden's 2010 visit, but ultimately called off because of pressure from the United States.
The settlements, which are to be built on land captured by Israel during the 1967 war, are seen as obstacles to peace by the Palestinians and not recognized by most of the international community. Israel, however, claims there is "consensus" that it should keep three main settlements in the West Bank, as well as the controversial E1 parcel of east Jerusalem, seen as a critical link between east Jerusalem and the Maale Adumim settlement in the West Bank. Until recently, plans to build in E1, which the Palestinians regard as vital if they are to establish a viable independent state, were on ice, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to seek U.N. recognition has set them in motion once again.
The decision to move forward with the Ramat Shlomo settlement has prompted harsh condemnation from the Palestinians. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms these Israeli actions and the determination of Israel to continue expanding settlements and in the process undermining the two-state solution," said Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian peace negotiator. The U.S. State Department condemned the previous settlement plan as "especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution," but has yet to issue a statement on yesterday's developments.
Egypt: Talaat Ibrahim, Egypt's recently appointed public prosecutor resigned Monday, as tensions mount between the country's executive and judicial branches. Meanwhile, anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators are expected to take to the streets today to protest the constitution, which is set to be approved in the second round of balloting next weekend.
- A series of car and truck bombings in Iraq killed at least 25 people on Monday.
- Iran plans to hold military exercises in the Strait of Hormuz sometime before next March.
- Hundreds of Palestinian refugees fled Damascus Monday, taking refuge in Lebanon.
- A car bombing in northwest Pakistan on Monday left at least 17 people dead and more than 70 wounded.
- Chinese authorities detained more than 100 people for spreading doomsday rumors.
- The Pentagon notified Congress that it plans to reimburse the Pakistani military $700 million for stationing troops along the Afghan border.
- Sudanese rebels claimed to have downed a government Antonov plane in the South Kordofan state.
- Police in South Africa foiled a plot to bomb an African National Congress conference attended by President Jacob Zuma.
- At least 18 people drowned in a boating accident north of Cotonou, Benin.
- Romanian President Traian Basescu reappointed his rival, Victor Ponta, as prime minister on Monday.
- Vladimir Putin said Monday that Russian arms exports reached $14 billion in 2012.
- French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he expects the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution backing a multinational African force to intervene in Mali.
- Ecuador's government evacuated areas close to the Tungurahua volcano after gas and ash was seen rising from the crater.
- Mexico's new interior minister criticized former President Felipe Calderon's security strategy for causing an escalation in violence.
- Brazil opened its first World Cup stadium in preparation for the 2014 football tournament.