The Jerusalem Municipality confirmed that it had approved construction in Gilo, a Jerusalem neighborhood beyond the Green Line, leading to a rebuke by the U.S. State Department.
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The Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee approved on Wednesday the construction of 181 new housing units in the neighborhood. The approval was part of a procedure for granting building permits, the last stage of approval before the actual start of construction.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby condemned the decision on Wednesday evening, saying that the United States strongly opposes construction in settlements, and accused Israel of actions that "risk entrenching a one-state reality." Such actions, he added, raise questions as to the Israeli commitment to a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.
Infrastructure work at the Gilo site began over a year ago, but was delayed for several months after ancient graves were discovered there, leading ultra-Orthodox figures to exert pressure to stop construction. In the end, additional funds were invested, and the plan was changed in an effort to move farther away from the site of the graves.
Seven hundred housing units, intended mainly for the ultra-Orthodox community, are planned for at the site. The new area of construction, called "Gilo Slopes," slightly extends the neighborhood toward the valley that separates it from the Palestinian village of Wallajah.