JERUSALEM: The Israeli defence ministry on Sunday confirmed it had given the green light for the construction of 346 new settler homes in two settlements in the southern West Bank, a statement said.
"The defence ministry has approved plans for 200 housing units in Tekoa and 146 housing units in Nokdim," the ministry said.
Tekoa and Nokdim are two small isolated settlements deep in the southern West Bank which are located in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem that Israel wants to keep hold of in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Late last year, the defence ministry approved plans for another 523 settler homes in another part of Gush Etzion, in what was the first step towards a new settlement city in the area.
The latest swathe of approvals came as a United Nations report called on Israel to immediately start withdrawing settlers from the Palestinian territories, saying the settlements caused the Palestinians' human rights to be "violated consistently and on a daily basis."
Israel has come under widespread international criticism for ramping up its construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories, particularly in recent months when it has pushed forward with plans for more than 5,000 new settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem.
The international community views all Israeli construction on occupied Palestinian land as a violation of international law, and the Palestinians have refused to return to peace talks while Israel builds on land they want for a future state.