Israel advanced plans for 4,427 settler homes in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, according to the Israeli NGO Peace Now.
Peace Now said that Israel’s military body that approves West Bank construction gave approval for 2,791 units and started the initial process for 1,636 other units.
The move is the biggest advancement of settlements since the start of the Biden administration. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, but in 2019, the Trump administration declared that the US no longer considers them to be illegal.
The Biden administration has criticized Israeli settlement expansion but has not reversed Trump’s policy of not considering them illegal despite pressure from dozens of House Democrats.
Tor Wennesland, the special UN coordinator for Middle East peace, condemned the settlement advancement. “Continued settlement expansion further entrenches the occupation, encroaches upon Palestinian land and natural resources, and hampers the free movement of the Palestinian population,” he said.
The settlement approval is Israel’s latest move to tighten its grip on the West Bank. On Wednesday, Israel demolished 18 structures in the occupied territory, including 12 residential buildings. Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled to evict about 1,000 Palestinians from Masafer Yatta, a cluster of villages near Hebron in the West Bank.
The advancement came after Israeli forces gunned down Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during a raid outside of Jenin in the West Bank, sparking an international outcry.