Israel’s National Council of Planning and Building (NCPB) has approved a new settlement plan to build thousands of settlement units on the hills of occupied Jerusalem.

The Israeli authorities regard construction in the area necessary due to the lack of land available for construction in the occupied Jerusalem, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Haaretz noted that the Society for the Protection of Nature and Environmental Groups protested against the plan as it will cause environmental damage to the landscape and springs in the region.

The plan will cover an area of 600 hectares on which 4,500 housing units are expected to be built.

Khalil Tafkaji, settlement expert and head of maps and land department at the Arab Studies Society, said the plan is part of Israel’s strategy no to establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Israel invaded and occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967 and declared it its capital in 1980. The international community, however, does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Since the occupation of Jerusalem, Israel has built 19 illegal settlements with more than 200,000 settlers. It has also made changes in the nature of the city and its demographic composition.

Human rights groups say the illegal settlements threaten the chances of a viable Palestinian state.