UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon AFP photo

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday slammed Israel's plans to increase construction in Judea and Samaria, saying they were undermining hopes of ending the Middle East conflict by setting up a Palestinian state.

"The secretary general is deeply concerned by the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, according to the AFP news agency.

Ban was "particularly troubled" at Israel moving forward with plans for more than 1,000 new homes in two communities Judea and Samaria, the spokesman said.

He was referring to plans to build 538 new homes in Itamar and to legalize 137 existing units there were submitted to regional authorities this week for review, as well plans to build 550 homes in Bruchin.

"These are unhelpful decisions that undermine progress towards the two-state solution," Nesirky said, according to AFP.

"They constitute a deeply worrisome trend at a moment of ongoing efforts to relaunch peace negotiations,” he added. "The secretary general calls on Israel to heed the calls of the international community to freeze settlement activity and abide by its commitments under international law and the Road Map.”

On Thursday, the United States also sharply criticized Israel's plans to move ahead with 1,000 new homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria, saying they were unhelpful to U.S. efforts to kickstart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"We don't accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“We remain hopeful that both sides will look at the important opportunity we have here to build trust and confidence and move back to the negotiating table, and that's what our focus is on."

Also on Thursday, Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) announced that 1,000 new housing units for Jews will be built in the Etzion Bloc, in Judea. The State Department was apparently not aware of these plans, however.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)