Monday, December 26, 2005

Israel to expand Betar Illit and Efrat

From BBC:

Israel has announced plans to build 228 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, just outside Jerusalem.

The move appears to breach commitments by Israel to freeze settlement activity in occupied territory, under the US-backed "road map" peace plan.

A spokesman said the building would take place in settlements - Beitar Illit and Efrat - that Israel intends to keep under any peace deal.

Palestinian officials condemned the move and urged the US to intervene.

The news emerged when the Israeli housing ministry placed a newspaper advertisement on Monday inviting tenders to build 150 housing units in Beitar Illit and another 78 in Efrat.

The two communities are part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc - part of the territory Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has vowed to keep under any final accord with the Palestinians.

"These are the large settlement blocs, they will be strengthened," Mr Sharon's spokesman said on Monday.