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Israeli settlement building rose by 40 percent in 2016: Official data

A man takes a picture in front of the Israeli settlement of Ahiya near the Palestinian village of Jalud in the occupied West Bank on March 16, 2017. (Photos by AFP)

The Israeli regime has stepped up settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land, with over 700 more housing units built last year compared to the previous year, official data show.

Figures released by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday show that 2,630 settlement units were constructed in the occupied West Bank last year, marking a rise of 40 percent from 2015.

The figure represents "the second highest number of construction starts in the past 15 years," anti-settlement NGO Peace Now said, adding that the highest number during that period was 2,874 in 2013.

"On average, since 2001, 1,790 housing units begin to be constructed in West Bank settlements each year," Peace Now said.

Although settlement construction has continued since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, 14,017 units were built since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office in 2009, the settlement monitoring group added, citing official Israeli data, which excluded the settlements constructed in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.

"The sharp increase in settlement construction sends a clear message to the Palestinians and to the international community that Israel is not interested in a two-state solution," Peace Now said.

The figures were released only a day after Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with building new settler units, stressing that the Tel Aviv regime has no plan to limit settlement construction in East Jerusalem al-Quds.

A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows Palestinians working on their land in the village of Bet Iskaka, with the Israeli settlement of Migdal Oz seen in the background, north of the occupied West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron).

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On December 23, 2016, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334 that calls on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.

It also states that Israel's settlement construction has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law."

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinians state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

Since the January inauguration of US President Donald Trump, who is a staunch supporter of Israel, the Tel Aviv regime has stepped up its construction of settler units on occupied Palestinian land in a blatant violation of international law.

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