Amid continuing clashes between Israelis and Palestinians living in the Occupied West Bank, the Israeli government on Monday approved plans to construct over 1,000 new housing units in parts of Jerusalem, according to media reports. The move is likely to further raise tensions between the two communities in the region, which has witnessed a number of violent confrontations over the last two weeks.
“The government has decided to advance the planning of more than 1,000 units in Jerusalem -- roughly 400 in Har Homa and about 600 in Ramat Shlomo,” an unnamed Israeli government official told Agence France-Presse, or AFP, referring to two existing settlements in southern and northern East Jerusalem.
Israel has been in control of East Jerusalem, which houses the Temple Mount -- the holiest site in Judaism -- as well as the Al-Aqsa mosque -- the third holiest site in Islam, since 1967. The region has been a focal point of frequent clashes between Israeli “settlers” and Palestinians living in the Occupied West Bank.
The latest clashes in the region began on Oct. 13 after Israeli forces reportedly attempted to restrict the entry of Palestinian worshippers to the Al-Aqsa mosque. At least two Palestinian teenagers were killed and dozens were reportedly wounded in the ensuing riots in and around East Jerusalem.
In the most recent incident, a Palestinian man reportedly drove his car into a Jerusalem train station on Wednesday, killing a three-month-old baby and injuring a 22-year-old Ecuadorean woman, who succumbed to her injuries on Sunday.
The disclosure of the latest plan comes just two months after Israeli authorities announced the appropriation of nearly 1.5 square miles of land near Bethlehem -- a move that was criticized by the United States, which termed it “counterproductive to Israel's stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians.”
The timing of the latest housing plan also came under sharp criticism from the Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid, according to a report by The Associated Press.
“This plan will lead to a serious crisis in Israel-US relations and will harm Israel's standing in the world,” Lapid reportedly said.