The Israeli regime has ratified plans to build over 150 new illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, Israeli rights group Peace Now says. The plans, adopted last week, involve small settlements in the Ariel area in the northern West Bank, the Carmel settlement in the city of al-Khalil (Hebron), and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, the NGO said on Monday. The move represents an end to an informal construction freeze in the Palestinian territory that lasted 18 months, the group added. On December 28 last year, Peace Now published a report based on official data obtained under a Freedom of Information Act, revealing that the Israeli regime’s housing ministry was seeking to build 55,548 units in the West Bank of which more than 8,300 would be in a contentious area known as E1, which is located adjacent to East al-Quds (Jerusalem). 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 al-Quds. 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. The Palestinian Authority wants the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinians state, with East al-Quds as its capital.