A new report by the United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance and Development Aid has said that the state of Israel has stepped up efforts to demolish Palestinian-owned homes in the West Bank.
According to the report, since the beginning of 2016, Israel has demolished, on average, 29 Palestinian-owned buildings a week.
In addition to demolishing homes, the Israelis are also targeting schools and other vital structures which provide some basic social services to the Palestinian people. The European Union recently criticized the Israeli government after a school funded by the French government was demolished in the West Bank.
The UN said in a statement that the demolitions happened in the village of Khirbet Tana, south of Nablus in the northern West Bank area. Khirbet Tana is said to be home to approximately 250 people. The primary occupation of residents in the area is agriculture and rearing of animals. And because farmers need grazing land for their livestock, most are forced to stay in the area for their animals to graze.
Currently, some 10 families are reportedly homeless due to the demolitions. In total, it is said 41 buildings have been destroyed, displacing about 36 Palestinians, including 11 children.
The Israeli government is said to be carrying out the demolition exercise on the pretext of using the area for military activities.
The UN Humanitarian Assistance Office said in a statement: “Due to the community’s location within an area declared as a ‘firing zone’ for training purposes, residents are denied building permits and have experienced repeated waves of demolitions, the last one taking place on February 9. These are some of the highest levels of demolition and displacement recorded in a similar time frame since 2009.”
Al Jazeera reports that an estimated 18 percent of the land in the West Bank has been declared by the Israeli authorities as “firing zones”. About 38 Palestinian communities are reportedly located within these areas. The Israeli Civil Administration prohibits building in these areas. Structures that are built in the area are frequently destroyed by the Israeli army with impunity, according to observers.
According to the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, the number of demolished Palestinian homes has tripled, on average, since the start of this year. Mr Mladenov has been a direct witness of some of the demolitions.
“Since the beginning of 2016, Israel has demolished, on average, 29 Palestinian-owned structures per week, three times the weekly average for 2015,” Mladenov was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying.
International observers have said in the past that the Israeli military frequently carry out demolition exercises as a punitive measure against Palestinians suspected of aiding or carrying out attacks against Israelis.
The Israeli military reportedly stopped the punitive demolition orders in 2005, following reports by an Israeli military committee that the practice did not deter attacks. However, the demolitions were resumed in July 2014.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that throughout the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, some 90,000 Palestinians are facing potential displacement due to the routine demolition exercises by the Israeli army.
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