Israel announced new construction in east Jerusalem—an area the Palestinians demand for their future state—just hours after it freed a group of Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal to set in motion peace talks. The building is seen as an attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make up for the prisoner release, for which he has been sharply criticized at home. The 26 prisoners released at midnight were jailed for deadly attacks on Israelis and many had spent more than 20 years behind bars.
The prisoner release was part of an agreement brokered by John Kerry, which brought Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table after a five-year hiatus. In all, 104 Palestinian convicts are to be released in four rounds over the coming months.The announcement of new construction in east Jerusalem angered the Palestinians but it was not immediately clear if it would directly impact the talks, which are taking place behind closed doors and away from the public eye.