Israel approves 2,000 new settlement homes, says NGO
Israel on Wednesday approved the construction of 1,958 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, said a settlement watchdog, constructions considered illegal under international law.
Peace Now said that nearly 700 units were given final approval on Wednesday, while the remainder passed the first approval stage in the planning process.
Last week, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that he hoped to see 2,500 approved.
The settlements are the first to be approved since the controversial US decision to transfer the embassy to the contested city Jerusalem on 14 May.
Peace Now said in a statement that there had been a leap in settlement-building during US President Donald Trump's term so far, with about 14,000 approvals.
That, it added, "is more than three times the amount that was approved in the year and a half before his inauguration (4,476 units)"
Israel's plans fly in the face of international efforts to curb settlement building, which is seen as a major obstacle to peace in the region.
Lieberman's announcement, last week, came after the Palestinian Authority's Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to "open an immediate investigation" into Israel's war crimes against Palestinians.
This would include into the continued settlement construction and Palestinian home demolition in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a report finding that most of Israel's largest banks are helping build illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank by providing financial services to home buyers and local councils.
Israel captured the Gaza Strip, West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 war.
West Bank settlements are now home to around 400,000 Israeli settlers.
An additional 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in a move that is not recognised internationally.
It withdrew from Gaza in 2005 although still enforces a border blockade.
Most of the international community considers settlements illegal and an impediment to the creation of an independent Palestinian state.