This photo shows a general view of the illegal Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit near the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, May 17, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
The United Nations and Palestinian officials have strongly denounced Israeli plans to construct nearly 800 illegal settler units in the occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.
According to Israeli non-profit organization, Ir Amim, which opposes settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories, the units would expand the Gilo settlement on the southern perimeter of East al-Quds. They are part of a larger plan for around 1,200 settler units approved some three years ago.
The move to further advance the plans has drawn condemnation both from UN and Palestinian officials. 
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said in a statement on Monday that the world body condemns the move by Israeli authorities to expand illegal settler units in the occupied Palestinian lands.
"I strongly condemn the recent decision by Israeli authorities to advance plans to build some 770 housing units in the settlement of Gilo, built on the lands of occupied Palestinian towns and villages between Bethlehem and east Jerusalem."
Meanwhile, Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the Tel Aviv regime’s decision "further reflects the failure of the international community to stop Israel's settlement expansion."
In a recent meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on Thursday, French President Francois Hollande warned of the "fragility" of the situation in the Middle East, citing "continued settlement-building" by Israel as a threat. 
Hollande touched on a recent report by the Quartet - the US, the European Union, Russia and the UN - which said, "Israel should cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion."
The Quartet condemned settlements in its report, issued earlier this month, urging Tel Aviv to stop its policy of "designating land for exclusive Israeli use, and denying Palestinian development." 
A general view shows buildings under construction in the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Homa in the occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds on March 7, 2016. (© AFP)
The United Nations and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.
The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East. Palestinians want the West Bank as part of their future independent state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.