The first half of 2013 marked a 70 percent increase in construction projects started in Israeli settlements compared to the same period last year, according to a report by a left-wing activist organization released Thursday.

Between January and June of this year, construction began on 1,708 units — 180 in illegal outposts — while last year that figure was 995.

The study by the Peace Now group also found that 44% of the new projects were located east of the security fence, and the vast majority of all the new construction, 1,469 units, began without tenders in settlements where they are not required.

In addition, 1,794 units were completed and 2,840 units in total were under construction during the six-month period.

Israel and the Palestinians began a new round of US-brokered peace talks in July after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to start the talks despite continued construction in the settlements and Israel agreed to release 104 long-time Palestinian security prisoners, many of them convicted killers.

However, last week Abbas reportedly left on a trip to Europe to lobby for international pressure on Israel to halt settlement construction and told a Palestinian television station that he was considering an appeal to the UN Security Council over what he termed as Israel’s continuous violation of Palestinian property as well as ongoing settler violence in the West Bank. Part of the deal to start the peace talks was that the Palestinians would refrain from turning to international bodies to take action against Israel while discussions were ongoing.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this story.