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Israeli gov't okays new West Bank housing


11:07, December 19, 2011

JERUSALEM, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- The Israel Lands Administration and the Housing and Construction Ministry on Sunday announced tenders for close to 1,000 apartments in contested areas in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The plan allocates 500 apartments to the city's residential Har Homa neighborhood, 348 in Beitar Elite south of the city, and 180 in Givat Ze'ev north of the city.

All the three areas lie beyond the 1967 war cease-fire lines.

"Some countries won't be pleased with this (announcement), but they won't be surprised," said Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias, according to the Ynet news site.

The overall plan puts close to 6,000 apartments on the market in areas throughout the country, and is aimed at easing spiraling housing costs that helped spark several months of nationwide protests.

"The decision was reached last month after the Palestinians were accepted into the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), and the right thing to do was to alleviate the shortage of housing units designated for young couples in Israel -- with an emphasis on the capital, Jerusalem," Attias said.

U.S. officials criticized Israel's decision at the beginning of November to go ahead with building plans for some 2,000 units in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood, and in major settlements to the south and east of the city.

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