The settler population grew to 502,991 as of January 1, reads a report by a pro-settler group named West Bank Jewish Population Stats, noting that thee the population has increased more than 2.5% in 12 months and nearly 16% over the last five years.
The figures come as the far-right Israeli cabinet has put expanding settlements top on its agenda despite the outcry of the international community and Palestinian people.
The report, meanwhile, does not include occupied east al-Quds in which more than 200,000 settlers have been stationed by the regime.
More than three million Palestinians live in the West Bank and east al-Quds which have been occupied by Israeli since the 1967 war.
“I think that in the coming years of this government, there will be more building than there has been in the last 20 years of governments,” AP quoted Baruch Gordon, director of the group and a resident of the Beit El settlement, as saying.
Much of the international community regards the Israeli settler units in the occupied lands as illegal.
All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent state with East al-Quds as its capital.
The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued illegal settlement expansion.
Many Palestinians believe the Israeli plans to annex one-third of the already occupied West Bank, including parts of the strategic Jordan Valley, is only a formality and that a de facto Israeli occupation of their land has been underway for many years.
A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stressed the illegitimate nature of settlements.
“All settlements are illegal. There is no legitimacy for settlements or the presence of settlers in the Palestinian territories,” stated Nabil Abu Rudeineh.
“The increase in the number of settlers is the result of Israeli government policies that do not believe in the two-state solution,” he added.
The Israeli occupation has announced several settlement projects in recent months, the latest of which was the construction of some 1,200 settler units in East al-Quds
The expansions come as a new wave of tensions and violence has emerged in the past weeks over Israel’s escalation in its killing policies and the long-running scheme to Judaize Palestinian lands.
The Israeli regime grants special status to settlers and applies much of Israeli laws to them, however, Palestinians do not have the same legal rights and protections.
Human rights groups have stressed that Israel is committing the international crime of apartheid by systematically denying Palestinians equal rights.