Israeli authorities gave preliminary approval Wednesday for construction of 200 new homes in a Jewish area of eastern Yerushalayim, a move likely to ratchet up already heightened tensions in the city.
The decision came shortly before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was to arrive in neighboring Jordan on a mission aimed at restoring calm in the area after weeks of unrest.
Brachie Sprung, a spokeswoman for the municipality, said city officials approved 200 homes in several neighborhoods. Sprung said the approval was just a preliminary stage of the planning process — meaning construction would be years away.
She also said city officials approved an additional 174 homes for construction in an Arab neighborhood.
The Israeli announcement came before Kerry was to arrive in Jordan and meet King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the situation in Yerushalayim. There was no immediate plan for Kerry to travel to Israel.
In the latest unrest, an attack against a mosque in a Palestinian village earlier Wednesday ignited a fire that destroyed its first floor. Faraj al-Naasan, the mayor of the village of Mughayer, north of Ramallah, blamed Jewish residents for the blaze.
Israeli police said someone threw a Molotov cocktail at an ancient synagogue in the Israeli-Arab town of Shfaram late Tuesday night, causing light damage.