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Record number of Palestinians displaced in 2011

Dec. 13, 2011 3:34 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 14, 2011 12:59 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities have displaced a record number of Palestinian families in the West Bank including East Jerusalem this year, a coalition of rights groups said Tuesday.

Some 20 leading aid agencies and human rights groups released a joint statement condemning the violations as the Mideast Quartet prepares to meet in Jerusalem.

"The increasing rate of settlement expansion and house demolitions is pushing Palestinians to the brink, destroying their livelihoods and prospects for a just and durable peace," executive director of Oxfam International Jeremy Hobbs said.

"There is a growing disconnect between the Quartet talks and the situation on the ground. The Quartet needs to radically revise its approach and show that it can make a real difference to the lives of Palestinians and Israelis," he added.

The increase in house demolitions in 2011 has been accompanied by the expansion of illegal settlements and a sharp increase in settler violence.

Since the beginning of 2011, more than 500 homes, wells and other structures have been destroyed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, displacing over 1,000 Palestinians, UN figures show.

This is twice as many people over the same time period last year and the highest figure since 2005. Half of those displaced are children.

Around 4,000 housing units have been approved in East Jerusalem over the past year, the highest number since 2006, the Israeli organization Peace Now said.

Settler attacks against Palestinians have increased by over 50 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, and by 160 percent since 2009, UN reports show.

Meanwhile, over 10,000 olive and other trees have been destroyed this year.

"The Quartet should call ongoing settlement expansion and house demolitions what they are: violations of international humanitarian law that Israel should stop," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Phillip Luther, regional director for Amnesty International, said the figures show the Quartet's approach has failed.

"Israel’s escalating violations show the fundamental failure of the Quartet’s approach. It’s time for the Quartet to understand that they cannot contribute to achieving a just and durable solution to the conflict without first ensuring respect for international law."

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