Israeli Defense Ministry on Wednesday authorized the construction of 523 housing units in Gvaot, located in the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements in the West Bank.
According to a statement released by the ministry, the authorization is part of the punitive measures taken against the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) for its bid to have a status in the United Nations.
However, the Ynet news website reported that the initial authorizations for the plan were given before the UN granted the Palestinians the status of a non-member observer state.
The website also said that the decision to expand the small settlement is the first step in the process of turning it into a city with 6,000 housing units planned to be built since 2000.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who refused to sign an approval to build 523 housing units in 2007, signed the decree on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, the Jerusalem municipal planning and construction committee authorized building 2,610 new housing units in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, after authorizing on Monday the building of 1,500 units in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, a move condemned by both the European Union and the United States as an obstacle to peace.
In addition, the Housing Ministry has published tenders for thousands of new housing units in Givat Ze'ev, Karnei Shomron and Efrat, as part of a plan to build 3,000 new housing units in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the E1 territorial stretch connecting them.
Hagit Ofran, chairwoman of the Peace Now Non-Governmental Organization which monitors the construction of West Bank settlements, said these plans aim to isolate east Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods from the rest of the West Bank. Endi