The European Union on Thursday expressed “regret” over Israel’s decision to demolish a West Bank mosque for the third time, calling on the Jewish state to reexamine its policy on the area.
Israeli forces demolished the mosque in the remote village of Khirbet Yarza on Tuesday, saying it was built illegally and in an area used by the military for training.
In a joint statement, the EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah criticised the demolition and said Israel should review its policy in the area, known as Area C, which is in the West Bank but under full Israeli civil and security control.
“The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah regret the recent demolition of a mosque in the village of Khirbet Yarza,” the statement said, noting it was the third time the mosque has been demolished within a year.
“Since the year 2000 more than 4,800 Palestinian houses and structures have been demolished for lacking a building permit in Area C. The EU calls on Israel to review its policy and planning system in order to allow for the socio-economic development of the Palestinian communities,” the statement said.
The mosque in Khirbet Yarza, which lies some five kilometres (three miles) east of Tubas in the northeastern corner of the West Bank, was razed in February and November 2010.
The Israeli military says it is acting to protect civilians because the mosque has been built in a firing zone, and that the structure was built without Israeli permission.
Building in Area C, which constitutes 60 percent of the West Bank, is under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Civil Administration.
Figures from the Israeli NGO Bimkom show that around 95 percent of Palestinian applications for a building permit are rejected, with the Civil Administration granting only around 12 permits a year.
United Nations figures show that in 2009, Israel destroyed 180 Palestinian structures in Area C, including 56 residential buildings.