The United Nations has called on Israel to immediately halt the destruction of Palestinian homes in the West Bank after reporting a dramatic rise in demolitions in the past year.
Israeli forces destroyed 622 Palestinian homes in the West Bank in 2011, “forcibly displacing” almost 1,100 people, over half of them children, according to a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report.
“The current policy and practice of demolitions cause extensive human suffering and should end,” UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, Maxwell Gaylard, said late Friday.
Palestinians have refused to return to direct negotiations with Israel because of Israeli settlement in the occupied territories. The report was released just ahead of a visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah next week by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Gaylard said the demolition figures represent a “dramatic” increase on previous years and that tens of thousands of people remain under threat of dispossession, demolition and displacement.
Israel says it only demolishes structures that have been built without required permission. Palestinians say they are rarely granted permits.
Gaylard said he went on Thursday to the village of Anata near Jerusalem where seven Palestinian homes were demolished this week.
“He was informed that bulldozers and troops had arrived in the middle of the night of 23 January and that 52 people, including 29 children, had been forced from their homes, which were then completely destroyed,” said a UN statement.
The operation was carried out on Monday night. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) said Israeli forces demolished Beit Arabiya, a family home and “peace centre” at Anata, that has now been destroyed five times since 1994. Israel’s administration for the West Bank said the homes had no permit.