Senior United Nations officials are calling today for an immediate freeze on demolitions in the West Bank, after dozens of structures were demolished yesterday by Israeli authorities in Palestinian Bedouin refugee communities, near East Jerusalem.
“A total of 22 structures were demolished in four communities, displacing 78 Palestinians, including 49 children, the vast majority of whom are Palestine refugees,” said a joint statement issued today by the Coordinator for Humanitarian and UN Development Activities for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Robert Piper, and the Director of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Operations in the West Bank, Felipe Sanchez.
According to the statement, all four communities are located in and around the area of the planned ‘E-1’ settlement, and both officials noted that this is the largest number of Palestinians displaced in the West Bank in one day in nearly three years. Concerns are also rising over reports of new displacements today in a Jordan Valley community.
“Yesterday’s demolitions targeted some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank,” Mr. Piper said. “The scale of displacement is particularly concerning – nearly 50 children lost their homes yesterday.”
“Many of these refugee families have now been displaced four times in the last four years” added Mr. Sanchez.
The four communities are among 46 located in the central West Bank included in Israeli plans to transfer Palestinian Bedouin communities to three designated sites.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had previously stated that the implementation of the proposed “relocation” would amount to forcible transfers and forced evictions, contravening Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under humanitarian law and human rights law.
“The strategic implications of these demolitions are clear,” said Mr. Piper. “[They] are occurring in parallel with settlement expansion. The relocation plan for these communities would effectively remove Palestinian presence in and around the planned E1 settlement project. This…project anticipates the construction of thousands of new Israeli housing units in the West Bank on the outskirts of Jerusalem.”
E-1, he recalled, has long been opposed by the international community as an obstacle to the realization of the two-state solution and a violation of international law.