Un chief Ban Ki Moon has said he is "deeply troubled" by Tel Aviv's decision to grant "legal" status to three West Bank settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Mr Ban's office said in a statement on Tuesday that the "secretary-general is deeply troubled by the decision of the government of Israel to formally approve three outposts in the West Bank.
"All settlement activity is illegal under international law," it said.
"It runs contrary to Israel's obligations under the road map and repeated quartet calls for the parties to refrain from provocations."
The road map devised by the UN, the European Union, Russia and the US points the way to a two-state solution.
Mr Ban's office said that the UN secretary general is "disappointed" that Tel Aviv has approved the new settlements just as the international community is attempting to get Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume direct negotiations.
An Israeli government committee chaired by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sanctioned the three illegal settler outposts of Rechalim, Bruchin and Sansana on Monday and sought to delay the court-ordered evacuation of another.
The colonies are home to about 1,000 Israeli citizens.
"These communities were founded in the 1990s based on the decisions of past governments," the committee declared.
The United States expressed "concern" over Tel Aviv's decision.
"We don't think this is helpful to the peace process, and we don't accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity," said US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
A European diplomat who declined to be identified said: "It damages those on the Palestinian side arguing it still makes sense to seek peace with Israel, despite 20 years of failure."
An Israeli military court freed prominent Palestinian protest leader Bassem al-Tamimi on Tuesday evening.
Mr al-Tamimi had been held since March 2011 on charges of inciting youths to throw stones at Israeli soldiers and organising demonstrations against Israel's occupation of the West Bank.
The European Union and rights group Amnesty had condemned his detention because he was charged based on evidence obtained through confessions extracted by interrogating children.
Nothing will bring back the hundreds of British soldiers killed fighting in Iraq at Tony Blair's behest.
Under a modicum of scrutiny the PM's international 'achievements' quickly unravel
The Con-Dems have had it their way too long. We have to turn this country around