The Jerusalem Local Building and Planning Committee on Monday approved a plan for 942 housing units in the neighborhood of Gilo.

The neighborhood is located beyond the Green Line, and therefore any building announcements have been considered controversial.

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According to some reports, the plan will encompass 88,000 square meters, expanding Gilo to the east and south. It also includes zoning for an additional 300 possible units in the future.

The decision was announced as President Shimon Peres landed in Washington DC and was scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in the evening and with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday. He is also expected to meet with various Senate and Congress officials.

Earlier Monday, the Defense Ministry confirmed that Defense Minister Ehud Barak plans to approve urban zoning in a number of West Bank settlements.

Barak will reportedly allow for four settlements - Rotem, Hemdat, Eshkolot and Nofim - to be zoned as urban areas. The settlements will join Kiryat Netafim and Halamish (Neve Tzuf), whose urban master plans the Defense Ministry already approved.

All of the aforementioned settlements were established with government approval. Twelve such settlements, including Itamar, where the Fogel family was brutally murdered weeks ago, do not have approved urban master plans.

The changed zoning allows for higher density of building in the settlements, making them more likely to be allowed to continue construction. However, no building permits have been handed out for the four settlements.


Following Israeli media reports that Barak approved widespread construction in the West Bank, the Defense Ministry said that "these are legal settlements that were built on state lands, received authorizations from the government, but their urban construction schemes were not arranged. Only recently were those arrangements completed."

"This is the approval of the existing situation," the Defense Ministry's statement explained. "Any additional construction requires another authorization."

Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.

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