Father and son with what's left of their belongings following latest demolitions in the West Bank, which displaced many families. (PHOTO: UNRWA)
The United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees condemned Israel’s latest demolitions in the West Bank which have displaced 68 people, including 32 children, in the depths of winter, saying it is violating international law and calling on it to abide by its obligations.
“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,” the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said of the demolitions which took place on Dec. 24 in Ein Ayoub near Ramallah and Fasayil Al Wusta near Jericho in the Jordan valley.
“We call on 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,” it added, noting that to date at least 1,103 Palestinians have been displaced throughout the West Bank in Area C, and East Jerusalem, exceeding the numbers for 2012.
Area C, where Israel still retains control over security, planning and building, represents over 60 per cent of the West Bank.
The majority of those displaced most recently, 46, are Palestinian refugees, including a five-year-old girl who is paralyzed from the waist down. They are now being sheltered in tents distributed by the Palestinian Red Crescent, with night-time temperatures plunging to around zero Celsius, while some 750 head of sheep and goats are without shelter at this crucial lambing season.
“These are Bedouin communities who managed to weather the recent snow storms,” UNRWA said. “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.”
The Agency stressed that administrative demolition is not a solution for Palestinians in Area C and are a common trigger of forced displacement, possibly amounting to a forcible transfer and forced eviction under international humanitarian law and human rights law.
It reiterated a statement in September by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay that “mass demolitions raise serious concerns about the prohibition on forced eviction under international human rights law, and Israel’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of Palestinians to adequate housing and freedom from arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family and home.”
Of the 1,103 Palestinians displaced so far this year, about a third are refugees, and at least 558 are children, including 195 refugees.
Furthermore, a total of 1,813 Palestinians, including 497 refugees, have been affected by the loss of non-residential structures such as animal pens that support livelihoods. In total, 663 structures, including 259 residential units, were recorded demolished since the start of this year in the West Bank. At least 175 structures belonged to registered refugees.