The Israeli government’s recent announcement that it has approved the construction of nearly 5,000 more settlement homes in the occupied Palestinian territory is a grave breach of international law, an independent human rights expert said Friday.

“The international community must answer this grave breach of international law with more than mere criticism,” said Michael Lynk, UN special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.

Earlier in October, a Defense Ministry planning committee approved plans for 4,948 more homes.

“As the Israeli settlements continue to devour the land that is meant for the independent Palestinian state, the international community observes, it sometimes objects, but it does not act,” said Lynk.

He said that the latest announcement means that the Israeli government has approved more than 12,150 settlements this year.

He cited the advocacy group Peace Now, saying this would be the highest annual approvals by Israel since Peace Now began to record the figures in 2012.

“While Israel may have shelved its plans for the de jure annexation of the settlements in August, it is continuing with its de facto annexation of the Palestinian territory through this unrelenting settlement growth,” Lynk said.

“Both de facto and de jure annexation of occupied territory are clear violations of the Charter of the UN and the 1998 Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court. This acceleration of settlement growth worsens an already precarious human rights situation on the ground.”

At least six times since 1979, the UN Security Council has said that the Israeli settlements are a “flagrant violation under international law” and have “no legal validity,” he said.

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