Britain has condemned Israel’s plans to build nearly 2,000 new settlement housing units across the occupied West Bank.
An anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now said on Monday that nearly 800 homes received the final approvals needed for construction to begin, adding that initial approvals were given to 1,150 more.
258 of the 786 approved homes are due to be built in Haresha, an "illegal outpost" west of the city of Ramallah, the watchdog said.
Peace Now said some 89 per cent of these planned new builds will appear in settlements that Israel may have to forfeit under a future peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Commenting on the planned construction, Andrew Murrison, Britain’s minister for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “The UK condemns the Israeli government’s advancement of yet more plans for over 1,900 housing units across the West Bank.
“It is the UK’s longstanding position that settlements are illegal under international law and undermine the viability of the two-state solution.
“We call on Israel to halt settlement expansion immediately," he added.
The building of settlements has surged under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting to stay in power after being indicted on charges of bribery and fraud at the end of last year.
Mr Netanyahu has on several occasions pledged to annex Jewish settlements in the Israel-occupied West Bank if he wins the next election. However, two general elections last year ended in a stalemate between his Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party. A third election is slated for March 2 this year.
The UK’s Prince of Wales is set to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the first time ever in late January.
On a trip which will take in an appearance at the World Economic Forum's Davos conference before moving on to Charles' first official trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, he will meet Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.