Israeli settlement construction rises 70 pct over past year

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-20 00:07:48|Editor: yan
Video PlayerClose

JERUSALEM, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The number of settlement homes Israel began to build in the occupied West Bank rose 70 percent over the past year, the country's official bureau of statistics said Monday.

Between April 2016 and the end of March 2017, Israel began to build 2,758 new housing units, compared to 1,619 new units between April 2015 and March 2016, according to a report issued by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

At the same period, the number of structures Israel started to build, excluding the settlements, dropped about 2.7 percent, according to the report.

During the first quarter of 2017, 344 settlement homes were put into construction in Israel, it said.

Commenting on the new figures, Peace Now, an Israeli settlement watchdog, said in a statement that such construction "distances (Israel) from the only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a two-state solution."

Also on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government is "the best government ever for the settlements."

Netanyahu has been under pressure by his ultra-nationalist coalition partner, the Jewish Home party, to step up the expansion of the settlements since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

"There is no greater mistake than to undermine this right-wing government," Netanyahu warned at a meeting of his Likud faction.

Earlier in June, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said plans for 8,345 new housing units were approved since Jan. 1, with 3,066 given final approval.

Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war and has since been controlling them despite wide condemnation. The settlements are illegal under international law and are seen as a major obstacle to peace sought by the Palestinians and the international community.