The Israeli government has given the green light for 346 new settlement housing units in the occupied West Bank, news agencies have reported. A statement from the Israeli Ministry of Defence said it has "given permission to plan for 200 housing units in Tekoa and 146 in Nikudim in the south of the West Bank."
Israel's Housing Ministry proposed another 200 settlement units in the West Bank last month, including 114 in Gush Etzion settlement bloc, which includes Tekoa and Nikudim settlements. It is located near Bethlehem. All Israeli settlements are regarded as illegal under international law.
According to Israeli NGO Peace Now, the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has speeded-up settlement expansion.
"After a ten-month break imposed by the US, Netanyahu's government accelerated the movement of bids for building settlements in the West Bank in 2009 and 2012," said the advocacy group. "In 2012 alone, work on 1,747 settlement units was started and the Israeli Ministry of Defence approved 6,676 others."
Around 340,000 Israeli settlers live in illegal West Bank settlements and another 200,000 live in illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.