Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will soon authorise hundreds of new homes to be built in the occupied West Bank despite US calls for a settlement freeze, a senior minister said on Sunday.
"The Prime Minister will announce in the coming days the construction of several hundred additional homes and public buildings," Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, a close ally of the hawkish Premier, told public radio.
Netanyahu plans to authorise between 400 and 600 housing units, according to Israeli media.
On Friday, a senior official said Netanyahu would approve a burst of settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territory before considering a moratorium sought by the United States.
The announcement sparked widespread criticism from the international community and outrage from the Palestinians, who called it "unacceptable”.
Israel`s main ally Washington, which has for months been demanding that the Jewish state freeze all settlement activity in order to kick-start the stalled Middle East peace process, said it regretted the plans.
Jewish settlements in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, home to some half a million Israelis, are among the thorniest issues of the decades-old Middle East conflict and one of the main obstacles to reaching a peace deal.