Israeli authorities approved 980 settlement units in the illegal Efrat settlement in occupied Bethlehem, reported Wafa news agency.
Hasan Brijiyeh, a local anti-settlement and anti-apartheid activist, told Wafa that Israel announced its approval of the construction of 980 new settlement units.
The activist said that this means Israel's plan to annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank will be implemented gradually, pointing out that vast areas of agricultural land will be seized as part of the expansion of the settlement.
Earlier this year, Defence Minister Naftali Bennett approved 7,000 settlement units in the illegal Efrat settlement.
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Israeli NGO Peace Now, which follows settler activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, said: "This is a cynical move by a caretaker defense minister at the end of his mandate, while the nation is still reeling from the corona crisis, to advance a dangerous plan aimed at entrenching permanent Israeli domination in the southern West Bank and harming the prospect of a two-state solution."
"The right thing to do is to allocate the land for Palestinian construction, but the Ministry of Defense is currently run by an irresponsible politician willing to cross any red line in the name of his anti-democratic ideology."
Moreover, PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi accused Israel of an "outrageous exploitation of the COVID-19 global pandemic to advance the illegal settler project and irreparably damage any prospect of political breakthrough."
Roughly 650,000 Israeli settlers live in illegal settlements built in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967. All of the settlements are in breach of international law.
The decision comes days after Bahrain normalised relations with Israel and a month since Israel's peace deal with the UAE that Abu Dhabi said was made to stave off Tel Aviv's planned annexation of the occupied West Bank.
However, although Netanyahu postponed the move, he reasserted last month that he has not abandoned his annexation plan; it has simply been delayed.
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