Jerusalem: Israel`s defence minister has approved the building of 277 apartments in a West Bank settlement, defying US criticism of continued construction on lands the Palestinians claim for a state.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak authorised the construction in Ariel, the core of the settlement bloc deepest inside the West Bank. One hundred of the apartments will house Israelis evacuated in 2005 from a Gaza Strip settlement.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no immediate comment on Monday on the diplomatically charged move.
In recent weeks, Israel has also moved ahead on two other construction projects in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians` hoped-for capital. The US was critical of those plans.