ISRAEL-OPT: Record number of Palestinians made homeless by demolitions

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

RAMALLAH, 6 April 2011 (IRIN) - The number of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem demolished by Israeli authorities increased for the third consecutive month in March, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Since January, Israeli authorities have demolished 176 Palestinian buildings, displacing 333 people, including 154 children. “The West Bank is where the future Palestinian state is meant to be situated, and its viability is being reduced with each demolition,” UNRWA spokesperson in Jerusalem Chris Gunness said.

In March, 77 buildings were demolished compared with 29 in January and 70 in February.

Half of the demolished structures were houses, while the rest included stables, which can be just as valuable to a herding community as a house, Gunness said.

The number of Palestinians made homeless by these demolitions also hit a record monthly high, according to UNRWA, with 158 affected in March (including 64 children) compared to 70 in January and 105 in February.

But Capt Amir Koren, spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), told IRIN the structures were illegal.

"The Civil Administration is responsible for enforcing laws regarding planning and building in Judea and Samaria… As such, illegal structures built by both Israelis and Palestinians are dismantled as a matter of course, according to a set of priorities which have been brought before the High Court of Justice dozens of times in the past.

“During the first two months of 2011, the Civil Administration carried out 69 orders to dismantle illegal structures built in Area C by Palestinian residents."