The construction of hundreds of new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank (photo, from aljazeera.net) was approved by the Israeli cabinet, a day after five members of a settlement family were murdered.
The Israeli prime minister’s office said the approval was a political message to Palestinians following the knife attack on Friday in a remote settlement.
This incident is reported to be the deadliest in years : two young children, a baby and their parents were killed while they slept. Army radio reported that two other children had been spared and that a third discovered that bodies when she arrived home.
In Israel outrage met the news of the attack, while many Palestinians were shocked.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, said it was a “despicable” act.
Suspects have been taken into custody but released, said the Israeli military without given further details.
‘Wrong and unacceptable’
Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the decision to approve the construction of several hundred units at Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, Ariel and Kyriat Sefer, was taken on Saturday night.
The Associated Press news agency said that the prime minister’s office sent a text message to reporters saying that the construction will be in major settlement blocs that Israel expects to hold on to in any final peace deal.
The move was condemned by Palestinian officials.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said : “This decision is wrong and unacceptable and will only create problems.”
On Sunday the Palestinian Authority (PA) condemned the “decision of the Israeli government to speed up and increase the building of settlements”, said Saeb Erakat, the former chief Palestinian negotiator and senior PLO official.
“[The PA] strongly condemns the settler attacks against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and we ask the Quartet [the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia] to urgently intervene to stop the actions of the settlers.”
Peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians stalled last year over the issue of settlements, when a 10-month Israeli freeze on new settlement construction expired and wasn’t renewed.
Settlements are held to be illegal under international law, but Israel disputes this.
The Palestinians had refused to resume the talks without a stop to building Jewish settlements on the territory they want as their future state.
Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967, settling close to 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements.