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UN: Four-fold increase in Israeli demolitions this year

April 29, 2016 3:09 A.M. (Updated: April 30, 2016 10:19 A.M.)
Palestinians in front of a destroyed house after Israeli forces demolished the homes of two Palestinians behind attacks in occupied East Jerusalem, on Oct. 6, 2015. (AFP/Thomas Coax, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- UN figures released Thursday revealed a four-fold increase from last year in the rate of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and structures, that have left a record-high 808 Palestinians displaced since the start of 2016.

According to UN documentation, the Israeli authorities have destroyed some 588 Palestinian structures across the occupied Palestinian territory since January.

The over 800 Palestinians to be displaced this year far surpasses the number displaced during the entirety of 2015, while well over 1,000 Palestinians were also affected after losing structures related to their source of income.

A number of homes have been targeted in punitive demolitions of the family homes of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis, most recently implemented in Qalandiya refugee camp last week. The policy has been widely condemned by the international community as collective punishment, executed in direct violation of international law on family members who have not carried out crimes.

However, the majority of demolitions took place in Area C of the West Bank --- the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control.

The Israeli authorities have regularly demolished Palestinian homes in Area C since occupying the West Bank in 1967, but rights groups and Palestinian officials have grown increasingly alarmed by Israel’s renewed demolition campaign this year, accompanied by unprecedented land grabs.

In the first week of April, 124 Palestinians were displaced in a single day from nine different communities, including the village of Khirbet Tana which has been destroyed four times over since the start of the year alone.

The UN’s Robert Piper following the Khirbet Tana demolitions warned that the Jordan Valley village faced imminent risk of displacement as a direct result of Israel’s efforts to push Palestinians out of the occupied area.

"It's hard to see how demolitions like the ones in Khirbet Tana are about anything other than pushing vulnerable Palestinians out of certain parts of the West Bank,” Piper said at the time.

The demolitions come as Israel’s mass confiscation of land south of Jericho in March and last week's retroactive confiscation of land near Nablus paved the way for the expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements.

Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said last month that this year’s land grabs -- following a mass confiscation in Bethlehem in 2014 -- marked a level of confiscation by the Israeli government for the purpose of settlement expansion not seen since the pre-Oslo period in the 1980s. The group warned the increase marked a clear change in Israeli policy.

Israel this year also revamped construction of the separation wall this year in Bethlehem Cremisan, which will cut off Palestinian locals from vast swathes of private agricultural land while facilitating the contiguity of nearby illegal settlements.

The PLO’s Haneen Ashrawi in response to the upswing in demolitions earlier this month said: "Israel is yet again demonstrating its willful efforts to single-handedly destroy the chances for peace and stability and to create a situation where the two-state solution is impossible,"

Last week UN Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine Riyad Mansour denounced the “shocking” impassivity of the UN Security Council regarding Israeli violations of Palestinians’ rights and international law, specifically referring to demolitions and settlement expansion.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his part said: “The creation of new facts on the ground through demolitions and settlement building raises questions about whether Israel’s ultimate goal is in fact to drive Palestinians out of certain parts of the West Bank, thereby undermining any prospect of transition to a viable Palestinian state.”
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