Israel’s ten-month partial freeze on settlement building came to an end with the launch of the construction of two thousand illegal houses across the West Bank.
At the settlement of Revava, near the city of Nablus, a mixer was used to pour cement to lay the foundation for a new building, hours before the midnight Sunday deadline when the moratorium was supposed to end, Reuters reported.
Extremist settlers marked the event with the tooting of horns and the release of thousands of balloons.
According to The Independent, Likud parliamentarian Danny Danon told the crowd, "Tonight, we place this miserable decision back into the dustbin of history."
The Israeli government’s decision to suspend the partial freeze on settlement building comes in defiance of severe international pressure, including from the United States, to renew it.
Israel had halted settlement expansion during the freeze, but figures from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics show that the number of homes built during the nearly 10-month moratorium declined by only about 10 percent.
In a statement issued after the suspension of the so-called settlement freeze, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "I call on President Abbas to continue with the good and honest talks we have just embarked upon, in an attempt to reach a historic peace agreement between our two peoples."
Acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas had indicated earlier that he would quit peace talks should Israel resume settlement expansion.
In a speech to the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Abbas said Israel "must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements."
However, it seems that Abbas has backed away from his earlier position, at least for the time being.
In an interview with the daily Al Hayat, he indicated that he would not quit talks with the Israelis immediately should the moratorium not be extended.
Abbas told the daily that should the freeze be suspended, he would "go back to the Palestinian institutions, to the Arab follow-up committee."