Amnesty International on Friday urged the Israeli authorities to abandon plans to construct 238 new housing units in Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.
"The Israeli authorities must immediately halt expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"Not only does the building contravene international law, it also compounds the litany of abuses of the human rights of Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including their rights to adequate housing and water."
The 238 new housing units are planned for the large settlements of Pisgat Ze'ev and Ramot, established in 1984 and 1974 respectively. Pisgat Ze'ev now has over 40,000 residents and, like Ramot, its services are provided by the Israeli Jerusalem municipal authority.
The plan for 80 units in Pisgat Ze'ev and 158 in Ramot was announced yesterday by the Israel Lands Administration and the Israeli Ministry for Construction and Housing. According to the Israeli media, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had approved the plans.
Although the areas of Pisgat Ze'ev and Ramot were not covered by the recent freeze on settlement construction, which excluded East Jerusalem, all settlement building on occupied land is illegal under international law.
Israel unilaterally annexed 70.5km² of occupied land in East Jerusalem and its environs following the 1967 war.
"Discrimination on grounds of nationality and religion is the dominant feature of Israel's settlement policy," said Philip Luther.
"The policy violates the rights both of Palestinians in East Jerusalem living under civil law and of those in the rest of the West Bank where they are subject to Israeli military law."
Israel's land grab and dissection of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have had a devastating impact on the lives of Palestinians. In East Jerusalem, 35 per cent of the land has been expropriated for settlements in which 195,000 Israelis live.
Meanwhile, more than 250,000 Palestinians are designated only 13 per cent of East Jerusalem, which is already heavily built up.
In the rest of the West Bank, around 40 per cent of the land has now been classified by Israel as "state" land and often used for settlements. A further 21 per cent of the settlements' built-up areas lie on private Palestinian land.
The confiscations, seizures and appropriations of land for settlements, bypass roads, the fence/wall and related infrastructure have resulted in the forced eviction of Palestinians.
According to the UN, in 2009 alone more than 600 Palestinians were displaced in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, more than half of them children, after their homes were demolished under order from the Israeli authorities, often to make way for Israeli settlements.
Under Israeli military law, Palestinian families evicted from their homes are not entitled to alternative housing or compensation. The result is that many then face homelessness and destitution.
"Last year, Amnesty International reported on the extent to which Israel's discriminatory water policies and practices are denying Palestinians their right to water, said Philip Luther.
"We have repeatedly documented the connection between settlements and the destruction of Palestinians’ homes, crops, agricultural lands, and livelihoods."
Israel's policy of settling its civilians on occupied land violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and is considered a war crime, according to the statute of the International Criminal Court.