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Israelis going ahead with work on settlement

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Israel vowed Friday to break the ground for a Jewish settlement in Arab east Jerusalem next week, ignoring world pleas to ditch the project that could bring a Palestinian backlash.

The Cabinet reaffirmed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to send the bulldozers to a pine-covered hill between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem."There is no specific day, but it will begin next week," Netanyahu adviser David Bar-Illan told Reuters.

Palestinian Minister Hanan Ashrawi called the decision foolhardy and said she expected Palestinians to protest peacefully.

The Cabinet met as Israel still reeled from the killing of seven schoolgirls on a Jordan Valley field trip by a Jordanian soldier.

"All the ministers were unanimous in urging that work begin as planned this coming week," Bar-Illan said.

He declined to say when construction would start, but political sources believe building at the site, called Har Homa in Hebrew and Jabal Abu Ghneim in Arabic, will begin by Monday.

Netanyahu pressed ahead with the plan under pressure from the right-wing and Jewish settler groups in his center-right coaltion government. The decision plunged Israeli-Arab ties to their lowest point since the 1993 Palestinian-Israeli peace accord and angered Western states.

The U.N. General Assembly, by a vote of 130 to 2, with two abstentions, called on Israel Thursday to abandon the planned settlement.

The United States and Israel cast the only negative votes on the resolution, similar to one vetoed by the United States in the Security Council March 7.