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UNRWA: Israel becoming 'more efficient' at displacing Palestinians

Oct. 11, 2011 5:02 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 13, 2011 9:24 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli demolitions affected 990 Palestinians in the West Bank in September, showing that Israeli authorities "are becoming more efficient," UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said.

The latest report from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees shows a dramatic rise in the number of people displaced or affected by Israeli demolitions. In July, the figure stood at 247.

"These figures show that the Israeli authorities are becoming more and more efficient in their demolitions, affecting and displacing ever growing numbers of Palestinians," Gunness told Ma'an.

In September, Israeli bulldozers targeted water cisterns in the West Bank, affecting a greater number of people than the demolitions of homes.

The demolition of one water cistern in Khirbet Atuf affected 300 people, Gunness said.

The Diakonia resource center for international humanitarian law says Israel's demolition of water cisterns in the West Bank has directly affected the lives of 13,602 Palestinians since 2009.

Israel's civil administration routinely destroys Palestinian structures built without Israeli permission in the 62 percent of the West Bank designated Area C under the Oslo Accords.

"Systematic and widespread administrative destruction of a range of civilian structures in area C, including homes, schools and cisterns, has been taking place since the end of 1980s," Diakonia said in its recent legal brief on West Bank demolitions.

The report highlights that the destruction of any civilian object during occupation is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention "except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations" and even then, only if the structure is used solely by militants.

When structures such as water cisterns are destroyed, civilian populations are forced to leave the area. Diakonia notes that the forced transfer of a population is absolutely prohibited under international humanitarian law.

Gunness called for "an end to all practices and policies that lead to the forced displacement of Palestinians.

"With at least three thousand outstanding demolition orders in the rural parts of the West Bank, affecting tens of thousands of people, whole communities are living with the daily trauma and anxiety of losing their homes and livelihoods."
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