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The 400 settlement housing units declared by Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu as a response for the murder of five family members in Itamar may have been authorized before the killing, Haredi newspaper Yated Ne'eman reported yesterday.

Yaakov Gutterman, mayor of the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi'in Ilit, in which half of the authorized homes are supposed to be constructed, told Yated Ne'eman that the housing units had already been authorized before Friday night's attack on the Fogel family, and that "political figures are exploiting a cruel massacre of Jews."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the family of the victims on Sunday that "they are murdering and we are building."

A government press statement released hours before the visit said ministers had met on Saturday night and decided to authorize the construction of 400 housing units in Gush Etzion, Ma'aleh Adumim, Ariel and Modi'in Ilit.

Gutterman told Yated Ne'eman that the 200 housing units slated for Modi'in Ilit were taken off old plans for 2004, which were delayed for years and finally green-lighted several months ago.

He said this was a private land on the settlement's southern hill, which was the subject of lengthy negotiations between the builders and the municipality because of planning issues.

The plan was finally confirmed in cooperation with the prime minister, he said, some months ago. Gutterman said the new neighborhood was meant to have 400, not 200 units.

"I'm thankful to the prime minister, defense minister and to God for the confirmation of the plan, we're very grateful," Gutterman told Haaretz.

"But what happened now was only a public announcement, not the confirmation itself. I found it painful that certain people used it to present this as a response or a 'price tag,' all upon the blood of the martyrs killed in Itamar," Gutterman added.

Asked if he meant the prime minister, Gutterman said, "I don't know who's responsible. It's a pity a brutal massacre is being used to advertise something that's been confirmed already."