JERUSALEM, July 6 (UPI) -- The construction of 800 new houses in Palestinian-occupied East Jerusalem has been approved by the Israeli government.
The measure is likely to inflame tension between Israelis and Palestinians in the contested area. The plan includes 560 units to be built in Ma'ale Adumin, already among the largest West Bank settlements: 140 more will be constructed in Ramot and 100 in the Har homa and Pisgat Zeev settlements, areas Israel says are Jewish but Palestinians regard as the future capital of a Palestinian state.
Israeli settlements in the West Bank are regarded, by the United Nations, the European Union and other agencies and countries, as illegal under international law, and a major impediment to peace in the region. U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon was critical of the decision, saying: "This raises legitimate questions about Israel's long-term intentions, which are compounded by continuing statements of some Israeli ministers calling for the annexation of the West Bank."
The Israeli government also approved 800 units of housing for Palestinians in Beit Safafa, a neighborhood within Jerusalem, bordering East Jerusalem.
Anat Ben Nun, of the Israeli non-governmental organization Peace Now, commented to Al Jazeera, "New housing units in the settlements will not prevent the next victims but rather strengthen the extremists on both sides. The real answer to terror is ending the occupation and reaching a negotiated agreement. Meanwhile, Israeli citizens will continue to pay the price of the extreme right-wing government's policies."