Israel OKs new homes at West Bank settlement

By the Associated Press | December 12, 2011 | 4:50 AM EST

JERUSALEM (AP) — The mayor of a West Bank settlement south of Jerusalem says Israel's Defense Ministry has approved 40 new houses at a site near his town.

Mayor Oded Revivi said Monday the homes will create a permanent neighborhood northeast of the Efrat settlement, replacing settlers' trailers currently on the site. He says final approval came last week.

The Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hagit Ofran, who monitors settlements for the Peace Now organization, says the trailers were put up without authorization.

She said their replacement by permanent homes amounts to retroactive approval of an illegal settlers' outpost.

Settlement construction is criticized internationally for cementing Israel's hold on land the Palestinians say they want for a future state.