Meanwhile, the Israeli military says it has bombed Hamas positions in eastern Gaza in response to what it said was rocket attacks launched from the area.
Israel is moving forward on the construction of hundreds of new homes in a sensitive east Jerusalem settlement, in a step that defies international consensus against Tel Aviv's building in areas that would cut Palestinians off from the city's eastern sector.
Israel's Housing Ministry on Sunday opened up tenders for more than 1,200 new homes in the Givat Hamatos area of Jerusalem.
The settlement watchdog group Peace Now and other critics say construction there would seal off the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
The Palestinians seek the West Bank, along with Gaza and east Jerusalem — areas Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast war — for their own state and view them as the main obstacle to peace.
International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories" and considers all Jewish settlement-building activities on the land to be illegal.
The latest move also comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to travel to the region this week, where he is expected to visit an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank, which previous US secretaries of state have avoided.
Palestinian officials, who have been snubbed by the Trump administration, have denounced the planned visit. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh tweeted on Friday that this was a “dangerous precedent” that legalizes settlements.
We deplore US Sec. of State Mike Pompeo's intent to visit the illegal settlement of Psagot, built on lands belonging to Palestinian owners in Al-Bireh city, during his visit to Israel next week. This dangerous precedent legalizes settlements& a blow to int'l legitimacy/ UN Res's.— Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh د. محمد اشتية (@DrShtayyeh) November 13, 2020
'Serious damage' to peace efforts
Brian Reeves, a spokesman for Peace Now, said the decision allows contractors to begin bidding on the tenders, a process that will conclude just days before Biden’s inauguration. Construction could then begin within months.
"This is a lethal blow to the prospects for peace and the possibility of a two-state solution," between Israel and the Palestinians, Peace Now said in a statement, adding that Israel was “taking advantage of the final weeks of the Trump administration in order to set facts on the ground that will be exceedingly hard to undo in order to achieve peace."
"Any settlement construction will cause serious damage to the prospects for a viable and contiguous Palestinian state and, more broadly, to the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution in line with the internationally agreed parametres and with Jerusalem as the future capital of two states," the European Union said in a statement.
Much of Jerusalem is already blocked off from the West Bank by a series of checkpoints and the separation barrier. Israel h as previously moved forward on plans to build in E1, another sensitive area east of Jerusalem that critics say, with Givat Hamatos, would block east Jerusalem off entirely from the West Bank.
Israel occupied Palestinian territories including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in 1967.
The Palestinians want these territories for the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
Israeli army strikes Hamas targets in eastern Gaza
The Israeli military has bombed eastern Gaza after what it was said two rockets were fired from the area.
"In response to rockets fired from Gaza at night, army helicopters and tanks bombed some Hamas-owned positions," Israel said in a statement.
Israeli army combat helicopters bombed the southern city of Rafah and tanks bombed areas in the East, as well as the western resort of Beit Lahye, according to data received by Anadolu Agency.
No information was released on casualties.
Two rockets from Gaza were launched late on Saturday into Israeli territory in border areas and the "Iron Dome" air defence system was activated, Israel’s army said on Twitter.
It disclosed no further details but Israeli media reported that one of the rockets fell in a neighbourhood south of Tel Aviv.
Gaza has not released a statement on the incident.
READ MORE: Israel bombards Gaza with air strikes