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Israel razes West Bank mosque

Nov. 25, 2010 10:39 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 26, 2010 2:17 A.M.)
TUBAS (Ma’an) -- Israel's Civil Administration demolished a building in the Tubas area on Thursday which villagers use as the only mosque in the small town.

Residents of Khirbet Yarza, a village of less than 200 residents, said Israeli bulldozers entered the Jordan Valley area early in the morning and tore down the mosque, saying document indicated that it was demolished because it lacked a proper permit.

Local PA spokesman Ahmad As’ad said villagers had papers proving the mosque was legal, and that it was built before 1967, when Israeli forces occupied the West Bank.

A Civil Administration official said the building was demolished along with eight sheds which were built without permits in an area that Israeli forces had declared a firing zone.

"The extension on the building which workers said could have been a mosque was unsafe," he said, refuting claims that the structure had been in place for as long as villagers claimed.

"They got the evacuation order three months ago and the demolition order after that, they had a chance to appeal it in the court," he added.

The spokesman from the village, a community of farmers and herders, did not indicate that the issue had been taken to the Israeli courts.

Since 1967, Israel has designated close to 18% of the West Bank a closed military zone for the purposes of military training, according to the UN.

"Israel's planning regime in Area C directly contributes to poor living conditions confronting many Palestinians in the West Bank," said a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

According to Israeli officials, "citizens have the time to arrive and appeal at the civil administration offices," but according to the UN, few appeals succeed, being unable to satisfy severely restrictive policies.

Most recent demolitions echo similar incidents which prompted a December 2009 UN report, which notes that "Palestinian construction is effectively prohibited in some 70 percent of Area C, while in the remaining 30 percent, a range of restrictions virtually eliminate the possibility of obtaining a permit."

The UN report noted that some 39% of the West Bank falls under the category of "state land," noting that the area is "four times more than the territory taken up by the built-up are of settlements." The issue was particularly acute for residents of the Jordan Valley, the report said, "where almost all of the area falls under the jurisdiction of two Regional [settlement] Councils."

In practical terms, the UN office has noted, "in almost the entirety of the Jordan Valley, Palestinian construction is prohibited."

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