UNRWA condemns demolition of Bedouin homes and school in West Bank

14 January 2011

14 January 2011
East Jerusalem

Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, today condemned the demolition of homes, and partial demolition of a school, by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on 12 January in the Bedouin herding community of Dkaika, in the West Bank. He said: “I condemn this demolition in the strongest terms. Fifty people have been made homeless, including 30 children, many of whom were about to take an exam when the bulldozers arrived to destroy part of their school. Instead of sitting down to their exam, the children faced the traumatic scene of watching their homes and classroom be demolished. This is unacceptable.

“This community of refugees was originally displaced in 1948 from their ancestral land in the Negev. Now, they face the devastating consequences of another forced displacement. Demolitions of the kind we have seen in Dkaika this week affect a growing number of Palestinians, and reflect a policy of discrimination. I call on Israel to immediately cease demolitions of Palestinian properties in the occupied Palestinian territory and to respect and ensure the rights of Palestine refugees in accordance with its obligations under international law, as repeatedly called for by the international community.”

The structures demolished on Wednesday in the small south Hebron village include nine residential structures, part of the village school and a large animal shelter.

Since yesterday, 15 children have been attending classes outdoors. UNRWA has given the community emergency food parcels, mattresses and blankets, and will be granting cash assistance to cover expenses related to the lost homes. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) handed out tents and kitchen sets to the affected families.

Bedouin communities in Area C (the 60 per cent of the West Bank under full Israeli control) are among the most vulnerable refugees. These communities have been drastically affected by Israeli policies and practices in Area C of the West Bank , including closures, restrictions on movement, settlement expansion, and the Barrier and its associated regime, which have led to the collapse of their traditional herding livelihood. In some areas, almost 80 per cent of the population is unable to afford basic food. In October 2009, research showed that around 34 per cent of children in Area C herding communities suffered from chronic malnutrition or stunted growth.

Forced displacement disrupts livelihoods, sharply reduces living standards, and limits access to basic services, such as water, education and health care. In most cases, demolitions affect families and communities that already live close to or below the poverty line.

In 2010, the Israeli military destroyed more than 349 Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank (under full Israeli control), leaving almost 485 Palestinians, half of them children, homeless. This represents a significant increase over 2009, when 191 structures were demolished. Another 2,606 have seen their property or livelihood destroyed or damaged. According to official information provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, there are over 3,000 outstanding demolition orders for Area C structures.

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For more information please contact:

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267

Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 100 million.

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