United States Secretary of State John Kerry criticised Israel on Wednesday saying that increased Israeli settlement building is not helping to ease tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
"I don't think that the situation is helped by additional settlement construction and building," Kerry told a House of Representatives Appropriations subcommittee at a hearing on the State Department's annual budget request.
"I think that I know we need to see measures taken on both sides to indicate a readiness and willingness to try to proceed forward and reduce the violence," Kerry said, when asked about heightened violence.
Approximately 400,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank in settlements that are largely condemned as being illegal by the international community, which sees settlement buildings as undermining international efforts to reach a two-state solution.
Since October, protests against the ongoing Israeli occupation have increased in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Since then, Israeli security forces have killed at least 180 Palestinians, mostly after allegedly attempting attacks on Israelis or in clashes with Israeli forces, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Many of the alleged Palestinian attackers were teenagers.
During the same period of time at least 30 Israelis and foreigners were also been killed.
Tensions have been stoked by factors including a dispute over Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque compound and the failure of several rounds of peace talks to create an independent Palestine in the currently Israeli-occupied territory.
In the 1967 Middle East war, Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem and later annexed the latter, declaring it part of its eternal, indivisible capital, a move which has never been recognised internationally.
Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as their capital.