The US criticized Israel Wednesday following a Wednesday announcement that the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee approved the construction of 78 new homes in two East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods.
“We would reiterate our clear and consistent opposition to construction activity in East Jerusalem. During this sensitive time in Jerusalem, we would see such activity as inconsistent with the goal of lowering tensions and seeking a path towards peace,” said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke at a press briefing Wednesday.
He added that the US administration remains in close touch with the Israeli government on these and other issues, including the deadly attack at a Jerusalem synagogue Tuesday morning.
Rathke also said that the renewal of the controversial Israeli policy to demolish the homes of terrorists as a punitive measure “are counterproductive in an already tense situation.”
“This is a practice I would remind that the Israeli government itself discontinued in the past, recognizing its effects,” he said.
Early Wednesday morning, security forces razed the home of Abdelrahman al-Shaludi, a 21-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem from Silwan who rammed his car into Israeli pedestrians in a murderous terror attack last month, which killed a baby and a woman before police shot and fatally wounded him.
On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to raze more homes of families of East Jerusalem assailants. Three other families of terrorists in East Jerusalem have now been formally notified that their homes are slated for demolition.
One is the home of Mohammed Jaabis, 23, from Jabel Mukaber, who rammed an earthmover into a bus on August 4, killing an Israeli and wounding five. He was shot dead by police at the scene.
Another is that of Mu’taz Hijazi, 32, from Abu Tor who on October 29 tried to gun down a far-right Jewish activist, critically wounding him. Hijazi was shot dead the following morning during a police raid.
The third is the home of Ibrahim al-Akary, 38, from the Shuafat refugee camp, who on November 5 rammed his car into pedestrians, killing a teenager and a policeman and wounding nine, before also being shot dead at the scene.
Israel has likewise pledged to raze the homes of Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal, from Jabel Mukaber, who on Tuesday were shot dead after attacking a synagogue with meat cleavers and a gun, killing four rabbis at prayer as well as a Druze policeman.
Earlier Wednesday, Jerusalem municipal spokesperson Brachie Sprung said that of the 78 homes in East Jerusalem set to be built, 50 apartments are to be built in the Ramot neighborhood and another 28 in Har Homa.
She said the same committee last week approved 178 homes for Arab residents in neighborhoods of the city including Ras al-Amud, Jabel Mukaber, Wadi Joz and Beit Hanina.
Although located in northwest Jerusalem, the Ramot neighborhood straddles the Green Line that marked Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries, which means some of its area is on land that the Palestinians want as part of a future state.
Har Homa is over the Green Line in southeast Jerusalem and faces the Bethlehem area.
Earlier this month, the planning committee approved 200 apartments for construction in Ramot. Washington said that move would further hinder efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a two-state solution.
At the beginning of the month, the higher-level Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved the construction of 500 apartments in the capital’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, also over the Green Line in East Jerusalem. The US swiftly condemned the decision to go ahead with the project.
Israel captured East Jerusalem and the Old City in 1967 and maintains that it is now part of the unified capital of Israel. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem and the Old City as their capital.
AFP and AP contributed to this report.