United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed deep concern over Tel Aviv’s plans to construct hundreds of new illegal settlement units in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).
"The secretary-general is deeply concerned by recent announcements of plans by Israeli authorities for 900 settlements in East Jerusalem that are illegal under international law," Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Ban, said on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, lashed out at Tel Aviv for its new settlement plans, saying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to “impose a perpetual Apartheid regime."
"The face of a new form of racist, discriminatory Israel has been revealed," Erekat went on to say.
US State Department Spokesman Jeff Rathke also dismissed as "damaging and inconsistent" the Israeli decision to expand settlements, saying they further heighten the tensions in the restive region.
“This is a disappointing development, and we’re concerned about it,” Rathke said, adding that Washington would “continue to make our position clear that we view this as illegitimate.”
The condemnations came a day after the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee approved the construction of 900 of 1,800 apartment units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of East al-Quds.
During his electoral campaign in March, Netanyahu had vowed to press ahead with settlement construction in the region.
“We will continue to build in Jerusalem, we will add thousands of housing units … in the face of all the pressure,” Netanyahu stated.
Israel has tried to change the demographic makeup of al-Quds over the past decades by constructing illegal settlements, destroying historical sites and expelling the local Palestinian population.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.
Much of the international community regards the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were occupied by Israel in 1967, and they are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.
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