Israeli newspaper Maariv reported on Friday that the number of settlers in the West Bank has increased by13 thousand over the last year, especially in religious settlements; total number of settlers in the West Bank arrived to 250.000.

The Israeli Interior Ministry revealed that 12683 settlers moved over the last year to settlements in the Wets Bank, adding that a total of 18.000 settlers moved into the West Bank since the Israeli government approved the Disengagement Plan some 18 months ago.

Over the last six months, 6900 settlers moved into settlements in the West Bank, most of the settler families are religious, and moved to Maali Adumim settlement.

Also, hundreds of extremist settlers moved into Hebron area, south of the West Bank; 60 settlers moved to Yitzhar settlement, 75 to Tapoah, and 17 to an illegal outpost in Hebron.

2206 settlers moved to Bitar Elite religious settlement, and 3329 settlers moved to Keryat Sefer. 

Settlements Council leaders said that they will apply soon for approval to construct thousands of housing units in the big settlement blocs, such as Ariel settlement near Nablus, Maali Adumim east of Jerusalem, Gush Atzion between Jerusalem and Hebron, and several settlements east of north of Jerusalem. 

The Council also announced that it intends to conduct a media campaign in the coming weeks in order to push the Separation Wall route further into the Palestinian territories, and to encourage the Israelis to move into West Bank settlements.

An official at the Settlements Council stated that Ariel Sharon said before implementing the Gaza withdrawal, that this pullout from Gaza means strengthening settlements in the West Bank.

Also, several Israeli and International Organizations reported that the number of settlers started to increase after Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization singed the Oslo agreement in September 1993.

Yariv Oppenheimer, Secretary General of Peace Now Israeli movement, said that the disengagement plan is misleading the world.

“We [Israel] withdrew from the Gaza Strip, but settlement projects are increasing in the West Bank to impose new realities”, Oppenheimer said, “Sharon should not mislead the public”.