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Palestinians launch $220 million housing project

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - The Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) on Monday announced the establishment of the Palestinian territories’ most ambitious real estate project to date, with initial capital of $220 million.

The goal is to create 30,000 new housing units in the next five to 10 years, PIF Chairman Mohammad Mustafa said.

“We want to see projects on the hilltops other than (Jewish) settlements,” Mustafa told reporters.

“The aim is to participate in building Palestine in the coming period, to create jobs and economic opportunities.”

The newly founded Amaar Real Estate Group, which will be listed on the Palestine stock exchange, will take over existing housing and tourism facility construction projects worth about $1 billion, Mustafa said.

He said the PIF, which administers public funds, expected to double the investment to $2 billion over the next five years.

The Israeli-occupied West Bank is home to 2.5 million Palestinians. Some 500,000 Jews live in the territory in settlements and in neighborhoods in Arab East Jerusalem, deemed illegal under international law.

Large-scale organized housing construction projects are new to the territory. Israel, which has occupied the land since 1967, controls construction in large areas.

Mustafa said the PIF also hoped to attract Arab and foreign investors. He said the company’s paid-up capital came from the fund’s $870 million in assets.

The PIF has investments in real estate, tourism, electricity and telecommunications projects but has recently put more focus on real estate.

In June, it started building 2,000 low-cost housing units for 10,000 people at Reehan in the central West Bank.

On Tuesday, it will lay the foundation stone for a project in the northern town of Jenin in the West Bank, with 1,000 units for 5,000 people.

A planned new town called Rawabi, which would create 5,000 homes for 25,000 people north of Ramallah, exists for now only on paper, as it will require the building of access roads that Israel has not yet granted.

Editing by Douglas Hamilton and Karen Foster