The UN’s special coordinator for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict again called on Tel Aviv to halt all settlement activities in the occupied West Bank after Israel announced thousands of new settlement units.

Nickolay Mladenov said Israel advanced plans Wednesday and Thursday for almost 5,000 new units on Palestinian land, with the vast majority “deep inside” the territory. All settlement construction is illegal under international law and the UN maintains it is a significant barrier to the establishment of peace.

“This significant number and location of advancements is of great concern to all those who remain committed to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace,” he said in a statement. “Such moves undermine the prospect of achieving a viable two-State solution by systematically eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous and independent Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.”

Israeli Peace Now, a rights group that advocates peace between Palestinians and Israelis, said in a statement that the Israeli government’s plans “make 2020 the highest year on record in terms of units in settlement plans promoted since Peace Now began recording in 2012.”

It noted approved settlement units in 2020 have reached 12,159, “with possibility for another HPC meeting for another round of approvals before year’s end.” The Higher Planning Council (HPC) operates the West Bank.

The statement added that despite the economic crisis resulting from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Israel, “Netanyahu is promoting construction in isolated settlements that Israel will have to evacuate.”

“The settlement enterprise is not in Israel’s national or security interest,” it concluded.

The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is regarded as occupied territory under international law, thus making all Jewish settlements there illegal.

Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967.

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