A senior United Nations official today condemned the demolition of two refugee homes in East Jerusalem, stressing in particular the trauma caused to Palestinian children forced to witness their homes being destroyed.
“These condemnable acts have a devastating impact,” Barbara Shenstone, the West Bank Field Director for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said in a news release.
“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, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a party.”
The nine-member extended Subuh family, whose home in the Ras Al Amud district of East Jerusalem was destroyed on 21 December, has been living at the location of their demolished home in two tents.
The Jerusalem Municipality gave the family just one day to destroy their home and threatened to demolish the house in 24 hours unless they complied. The family destroyed the house themselves at a cost of 60,000 new Israeli shekels rather than pay the Municipality to do so, which costs twice as much.
Also under orders from the Jerusalem Municipality, the four-member al Shukiwi family destroyed their home in the Ath Thuri district of East Jerusalem on 19 December.
Ms. Shenstone noted that while children around the world are enjoying the holiday season in their homes, the children from these families have suffered the trauma and indignity of watching their homes being destroyed.
After witnessing the demolition of his home, one of the children, aged two, said “all I want to do is die.”
The UN says there has been an almost 45 per cent increase in demolitions in 2010, during which 396 Palestinian structures were demolished in East Jerusalem and other areas under full Israeli control in the West Bank, as compared to 275 in 2009. As a result, 561 people have been displaced, including 280 children, and the livelihoods of over 3,000 people have been affected.
UNRWA, which is assisting some 4.7 million Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, has provided emergency food assistance, cash and social worker support to the families uprooted by the recent demolitions.
Yesterday the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, criticized Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes, which he said have a “severe social and economic impact” on the lives and welfare of Palestinians and increase their dependence on humanitarian assistance.
“The position of the United Nations remains that the Government of Israel must take immediate steps to cease demolitions and evictions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” he said in a statement that was issued as he visited the site of the house of the Subuh family that was demolished the previous day.