Israel announces new settlement construction in wake of Palestinian unity government

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel issued tenders for the construction of some 1,500 homes and apartments in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The announcement Thursday is in retaliation for the formation of a Palestinian unity government that includes the Hamas organization, which has been labeled a terrorist group by both Israel and the United States.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home Party said in a statement after the announcement that the move was a “fitting Zionist response to the formation of a Palestinian terror government” and that the announcement of new housing construction was “just the beginning.”

A Palestinian Authority spokesman told reporters that the Palestinians would respond to the announcement of new housing in an “unprecedented manner.”

The new housing units reportedly will be built in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, as well as Efrat, Beitar Ilit, Adam and Givat Ze’ev in the West Bank. The tenders had originally been scheduled to be issued in concert with Israel’s release in March of a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners as part of the U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The more than 20 prisoners were never released.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro condemned the announcement of new housing tenders during an interview Thursday morning with Army Radio.

“We oppose construction in the settlements and this type of announcement about building. This would happen with or without the disagreement on the new Palestinian transitional government,” he said.

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