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ISRAEL DEFIES U.S., BEGINS BUILDING IN WEST BANK

Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai on Wednesday laid the cornerstone for some 130 Jewish homes in the West Bank, in defiance of a U.S. call for a "timeout" to settlement expansion.

Mordechai shoveled wet concrete into a hole to launch the widening of the Beit El settlement near Palestinian-ruled Ramallah on the first anniversary of the shooting deaths of a Jewish settler and her 12-year-old son by Arab gunmen.

"The people of Beit El have to build their houses here just as the people of New York, Paris or Tel Aviv have to build their apartments," Mordechai said.

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