Palestinian children near the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank. (AFP/ Ahman Gharabli, File)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- UN officials on Tuesday slammed a recent spate of Israeli home demolitions east of Jerusalem and called for an immediate freeze on demolitions across the occupied West Bank.
Israeli forces on Monday demolished 22 structures belonging to the Jahalin Bedouin community in eastern Jerusalem, leaving 78 Palestinians homeless, including 49 children, the UN Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said in a joint statement.
"According to UN records, this is the largest number of Palestinians displaced in the West Bank in one day in nearly three years," the statement said.
The demolitions all took place in the E1 corridor -- a large tract of land between East Jerusalem and the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim that Israel has earmarked for annexation.
Israeli authorities have issued demolition orders to hundreds of Palestinian Bedouins living in the corridor, demanding that they relocate to an area on the outskirts of Abu Dis in the south.
Robert Piper, the head of UNOCHA in the occupied Palestinian territory, said: "Monday's demolitions targeted some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank."
"The scale of displacement is particularly concerning -- nearly 50 children lost their homes on Monday."
Most of the families that lost their homes were refugees, the statement said.
Felipe Sanchez, director of UNRWA operations in the West Bank, said: "Many of these refugee families have now been displaced four times in the last four years."
Israeli plans for settlement construction in E1 have been strongly opposed by the international community, including the US.
"The relocation plan for these communities would effectively remove Palestinian presence in and around the planned E1 settlement project," Piper said.
"This settlement project anticipates the construction of thousands of new Israeli housing units in the West Bank on the outskirts of Jerusalem. E-1 has long been opposed by the international community as an obstacle to the realization of the two-state solution and a violation of international law, " he added.
Critics have said that Israeli settlement construction in E1 would divide the West Bank in two and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state virtually impossible.
Israel carried out further home demolitions on Tuesday, destroying 12 Bedouin tents in the area of al-Fasayel in the southern Jordan Valley.
According to Israeli watchdog B'Tselem, another 48 people were left homeless, including 31 minors.