Israel is planning the construction of thousands of new settlement units in occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank, an Israeli government agency confirmed on Thursday.

A spokesman for COGAT, Israel’s chief liaison office with the Palestinians, said 3,212 units were at various levels of approval.

According to human rights organization Peace Now, the Higher Planning Council of the Israeli Civil Administration approved 4,948 settlement units, at various stages of planning, on Wednesday and Thursday.

According to Peace Now, this is the first round of approvals in eight months – and since Israel signed a normalization treaty with the United Arab Emirates in September.

In the framework of the so-called Abraham Accords, Israel agreed to suspend plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) wrote on Twitter that the settlement approvals are: “A Testament that Annexation is an Ongoing Process.”

Nikolai Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, and Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, separately issued statements calling on Israel to cease settlement activity.

“Against the background of normalization of relations between Israel, UAE and Bahrain, Israelis and Palestinians should seize this opportunity and take urgent steps to build confidence and restore cooperation along the line of previous agreements and in full respect of international law,” said Borrell in his statement.

The construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank is one of the most contentious issues in the decades-long and bloody dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Some 600,000 Israelis live in more than 200 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hope to make the capital of their future state.

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