UN officials visit West Bank village where home demolitions by Israel have risen

21 July 2011

Two senior United Nations officials today visited a Bedouin community in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) amid increasing home demolitions by the Israeli authorities, who have control over security, planning and zoning in the area.

Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for oPt and David Hutton, the acting Director of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), visited the village of Khan Al Ahmar where more homes have been razed this year than in the previous two years.

The village is situated just outside Jerusalem and between two Israeli settlements in the so-called Area C of the West Bank. Residents of Khan Al Ahmar village, most of them refugees, have lived in the area since 1948.

Last week, the village received four new “stop-building” orders and the community has not been able to obtain building permits due to restrictive and inadequate planning policies in Area C.

Under the planning and zoning regime applied by the Israeli authorities in Area C, Palestinian construction is effectively prohibited in some 70 per cent of the area, while in the remaining 30 per cent, a range of restrictions virtually eliminate the possibility of obtaining a building permit, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

There are demolition orders issued against another 250 structures in communities around Khan Al Ahmar, OCHA said in a press release. Some 20 Bedouin communities, with a combined population of 2,353, two-thirds of them youngsters under the age of 18, live in the area in the Jerusalem periphery.

More than 80 per cent of them are now at risk of being displaced due to the expansion of the Ma’ale Adumin Jewish settlement and the planned construction of the Barrier.

During the visit to Khan Al Ahmar, OCHA unveiled new research findings focusing on displacement of Palestinians in Area C.

The survey, which is based on field visits to 13 communities in Area C, found that in most of the communities, Palestinian families are being forced to leave due to restrictive policies and practices of the Israeli authorities, including movement and access restrictions, settlement activity, and restrictions on Palestinian construction.

The research also highlights how these policies are undermining traditional community livelihoods and placing thousands of people at risk of displacement.


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