The Palestinian Authority on Monday accused Israel of responding to Pope Francis’ stop at the security barrier in Bethlehem by announcing plans to build 50 housing units in Har Homa.
During his visit to Bethlehem on Sunday, Pope Francis stopped briefly at the security barrier, much to the satisfaction of his Palestinian hosts.
The Palestinians see the pope’s stop at the security barrier as a symbolic act intended to relay his opposition to its presence.
Jerusalem city councilor Pepe Alalu of Meretz told AFP Monday that the Jerusalem municipality had approved the units in the neighborhood built over the pre-1967 Jerusalem border.
But there didn’t appear to be any official announcement to that effect.
Responding to Alalu’s statement, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the decision was an “immoral, illogical and uncivilized” Israeli response to the pontiff’s visit to the “illegal” security fence.
Abu Rudaineh said that Har Homa was a settlement that had been built on lands belonging to Bethlehem families.
The Palestinian daily Al-Quds said that Pope Francis’s “surprise” visit to the security barrier was a “demonstration led by the pontiff, on behalf of all the free Muslims and Christians, against all that the wall represents: assault on freedoms, theft of rights, confiscation of lands, uprooting of trees and killings of people.”
Another Palestinian newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, praised the pope for stopping and praying at the security fence “with a bleeding heart.”