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article imageUN criticizes Israel's Christmas Eve demolition of Bedouin homes

By Robert Myles     Dec 27, 2013 in World
Ramallah - The United Nations agency with responsibility for Palestinian refugees has condemned the latest demolitions of Palestinian homes on the West Bank which took place on Christmas Eve.
The United Nations Relief and Works agency (UNRWA) said the demolitions had displaced 68 people, the majority Palestinians. Among those displaced were 32 children. Quite apart from the forced removals taking place in the depths of winter, UNRWA said they constituted a breach of international law.
The structures demolished by the Israeli authorities were located at Ein Ayoub, near Ramallah and Fasayil Al Wusta, near Jericho, in the Jordan valley. These mainly Bedouin communities had recently endured snow storms and although the Palestinian Red Crescent distributed tents to those displaced, the tents offer only minimal protection given that night-time temperatures drop to around zero Celsius.
According to UNRWA, the demolitions have also impinged on the shelter available to the livestock of these traditional herding communities. The agency reports an estimated 750 head of sheep and goats are now without shelter heading into the lambing season.
UNRWA spokesman, Christopher Gunness, commented, “Because of these demolitions, which violate international law, these historically self-sufficient communities have been forced to endure the pitiless seasonal weather in inadequate housing, entirely dependent on international assistance.”
Gunness contrasted the plight of the displaced Bedouins with Christmas celebrations taking place elsewhere in the world, adding, “On this day, many people around the world are celebrating family life with their children. But thanks to the “administrative demolitions” these families have lost their homes and their livelihoods are severely threatened.”
Gunness concluded by calling upon Israel, “to abide by its obligations under international law, most particularly to ensure the humane treatment and protection of the civilian Palestinian population at all times, including through an immediate halt to administrative demolitions.”
The affected communities lie in Area C of the West Bank. Israel still retains control over security, planning and building in Area C, which accounts for more than 60 per cent of the West Bank. In October, in the first comprehensive study of the economic impact of Israel’s continuing control of the Area C, the World Bank expressed the view that Palestinian access and use of Area C provided the key to a Palestinian economic recovery and sustainable growth.
Israel’s “administrative demolitions” within Area C and other areas of the West Bank have been consistently opposed by UNRWA. According to the agency, Israel’s latest Christmas Eve demolitions of Bedouin homes brings to 1,103 the number of Palestinians forcibly displaced by such Israeli operations within Area C and in East Jerusalem during 2013, exceeding the total for 2012.
But delving deeper into the overall figures quoted by UNRWA reveals that the 2013 total includes at least 558 children. Quite apart from the families whose homes have been forcibly demolished, Israeli operations have affected an estimated 1,813 Palestinians, including 497 refugees, who’ve suffered the loss of non-residential structures such as animal pens. Being deprived of the means to raise and keep livestock impacts on the livelihoods of those affected.
UNRWA records a total of 663 structures, including 259 residential units, as having been demolished since the beginning of 2013 in the West Bank. Compounding these forced removals, of the structures destroyed, at least 175 were estimated to belong to Palestinians who were already refugees.
The UN Agency again highlighted Israel’s obligations under international and human rights laws, referring to a statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, September last. Then, a spokesman for Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had said, “These mass demolitions raise serious concerns about the prohibition on forced evictions under international human rights law, and Israel’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of Palestinians to adequate housing and freedom from arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family and home.”
Israel defended the latest forced demolitions on the West Bank. France 24 reports a spokesman for the Civil Administration, the Israeli military body responsible for administering parts of the West Bank, said the demolished structures "were illegal because they were built without permits."
The spokesman added that Israel’s Supreme Court had rejected appeals against their demolition.
Israel claims it only demolishes structures that have been built without the required permission. Palestinians contend that new structures are rarely granted permits.
More about Palestine, Palestinian bedouins, Bedouins, Israeli demolitions, forced evictions on West Bank
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