Israeli troops on Thursday demolished four villas near the ancient city of Jericho, which Israel said endangered a nearby archaeological site, sources on both sides said.
An AFP correspondent at the scene said the villas, which are located in Ad-Duyuk at-Tahta northwest of the town, were owned by Palestinians living in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Locals at the scene said the villas had been demolished because they were built without a permit.
A spokesman for COGAT, a unit within the Israeli defence ministry which administers the occupied West Bank, said the homes were built without permission and were endangering a nearby archaeological site.
“They are in the area of the Hasmonean palace and were built illegally, without a permit,” COGAT spokesman Guy Inbar told AFP, referring to a site on a hill on Jericho’s western edge which overlooks the town.
He said the owners had been repeatedly warned about the demolition in orders dating back as far as 2008.
Israel demolished another four houses in the same area in mid-November, saying they risked threatening the nearby archaeological site.
Last month, a coalition of international rights groups and aid organisations said Israel’s demolition of homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem had displaced more than 1,000 people in 2011, twice that of the previous year and the highest number since 2005.