Israel’s demolition of homes in occupied East Jerusalem and other West Bank areas under Israeli control has been condemned by the UN relief agency UNRWA, who said 396 buildings were razed this year, compared with 275 in 2009.
561 Palestinians – including 280 children – were displaced, it said.
Israel’s interior ministry answered that it has the right to demolish homes that are built without Israeli permission.
Since 1967, Israel has occupied East Jerusalem, and an estimated 200,000 settlers live there, alongside 250,000 Palestinians.
Israel’s refusal to stop building settlements in the West Bank, where they take up some 40% of the Palestinian territory, led to the collapse of direct peace talks this month.
‘Contravention of Israel’s obligations’
In a statement, UNRWA’s West Bank Field Director, Barbara Shenstone, said : “I call on the Israeli authorities to cease demolitions and evictions in occupied areas which are in contravention of Israel’s obligations under international law.”
Shenstone used the example of the nine-member Subouh family, whose home in the Ras al-Ammoud district of East Jerusalem was destroyed on 21 December (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk).
The family has been living on their property in two tents after the Jerusalem municipality gave them 24 hours to demolish their home, she said, adding that the family destroyed the house themselves at a cost of 60,000 shekels ($17,000), rather than pay the municipality to do so, which costs twice as much.
Although under international law East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory, Israel annexed the area in 1981 and sees it as its exclusive domain.
Earlier this year, a UN report showed that Palestinians who want to build a home can seek permission to do so only in a small area that comprises about 13% of East Jerusalem, already densely populated.
Therefore at least 28% of all homes have been built illegally and 60,000 of the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are at risk of having their homes demolished by the Israeli authorities, said the UN.