Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Sunday that "ministers have decided to authorize construction" of a few hundred housing units in the West Bank settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ma'aleh Adumim, Ariel and Kiryat Sefer.
The decision comes a little more than a day after five members of a family in a Jewish West Bank settlement were murdered
in their sleep. Palestinian terrorists are suspected in the killings.
It was not clear whether the approval referred to construction plans that already were in the pipeline or new proposals. The decision was taken Saturday night and reported Sunday.
The PMO called said the "measured" construction will take place in areas which are supposed to remain under Israeli sovereignty following any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Apart from Netanyahu, the group of ministers who approved the decision also included Ehud Barak, Moshe Ya'alon and Matan Vilnai. The US, which opposes settlement construction along with the rest of the western nations, has been informed of Israel's decision.
Scene of Itamar massacre (Photo:
Barak has refused to authorize fresh construction in the West Bank despite the fact that the official construction moratorium had expired in September.
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan called Sunday's decision a "small step in the right direction," adding that a new neighborhood should be built in Itamar in honor of those who were murdered there.
"It's a shame that it took a murder of parents and their children for the Netanyahu government to approve the construction of new homes," he said.
Addressing the government's decision, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, "We should build at least 1,000 units for each person who was murdered.
"The Palestinian Authority, through Fatah, is a beacon for murderers," he added.
Netanyahu told Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting that during his visit to the Fogel family home in Itamar Saturday night, the grandchildren who survived the terror attack told him, "May god give you the strength, faith and wisdom to protect the nation of Israel at this time."
The PM said that in a conversation with Mahmoud Abbas, he demanded that the Palestinian president issue a harsher condemnation of the attack in Itamar and work to stop the incitement against Israel.
Netanyahu said IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz is due to update the cabinet on the anti-Israel incitement in "Palestinian schools, mosques and media outlets, such as a soccer game which is set to be held in honor of a female suicide bomber who killed and maimed dozens of people on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem.
"The PA grants scholarships to families of murderers and names squares after them. Such acts do not coincide with the Palestinians' statements regarding their desire for peace," he said.
The knife attack in Itamar Friday killed two young children, a baby and their parents. It was the deadliest attack in years and came at a time when Israel is under to launch a new peace initiative.
Israeli security forces were on alert Sunday for possible settler retaliation against Palestinians.
AP contributed to the report