UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (Photos by AFP)
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his support for the Tel Aviv regime’s expropriation of Palestinian territories and expansion of illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank.
On Thursday, Ban told the Security Council during a meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that Israel's construction of settlement outposts on land earmarked for a future independent Palestinian state is illegal, and the Israeli military’s control over Palestinian territories must be brought to an end.
"Let me be absolutely clear: settlements are illegal under international law. The occupation, stifling and oppressive, must end," he said.
The UN chief further noted that the settlement of around a million Israelis in Palestinian territories is “diametrically opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.”
Ban further took a swipe at Netanyahu over the assertion that opposition to settlements was tantamount to "ethnic cleansing."
“I am disturbed by a recent statement by Israel's prime minister portraying those who oppose settlement expansion as supporters of ethnic cleansing. This is unacceptable and outrageous,” the UN secretary general pointed out.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem al-Quds office on September 11, 2016. 
Last week, Netanyahu claimed in a video posted on his Facebook page that the settlements built across the occupied West Bank do not constitute “obstacles” to an eventual peace agreement with the Palestinians, and that he has “always been perplexed” about the related criticisms.
The Israeli prime minister went on to allege that the Palestinian leadership sought a Palestinian state on the condition that it was “a state without Jews,” and that this could be described as “ethnic cleansing.”
Speaking on Sunday night before the Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice), Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (seen below) said the Israelis "don't want to progress one iota towards peace, in spite of their deceptive allegations."
“On the contrary, they go deeper with their settlements, infringement of holy places, ethnic cleansing and deliberate killing," he said.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of their future independent state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
The presence and continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine, however, have created a major obstacle to the establishment of such a state.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
This picture taken in the West Bank city of al-Khalil, also known as Hebron, on July 6, 2016, shows a Palestinian man standing in front of buildings in the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement on the outskirts of the Palestinian city. 
Much of the international community regards the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories they are built on were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.
Nevertheless, the Israeli regime continues to build more settlements and expand the existing ones.