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Sharp increase in demolitions threatens to destroy West Bank communities
UNRWA calls for accountability and an end to discriminatory practices
2 August 2011
Statement by UNRWA spokesperson, Chris Gunness
|A boy from the Bedouin community of Khan Al Ahmar stands in the yard of his demolition-threatened school.|
UNRWA is concerned that 15 per cent of those displaced are Palestine refugees. The vast majority of demolitions have been carried out in Area C, the 60 per cent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control for security, planning and building.
June and July saw a sharp increase in the number of demolitions of Palestinian homes and infrastructure, according to the latest UNRWA figures. In June alone 132 structures were demolished. This is more than the total for the previous three months. In June and July, 605 Palestinians were displaced or affected by demolitions, more than half of whom are children.
Under a planning system condemned as discriminatory by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Israeli authorities have allocated only 1 per cent of Area C for Palestinian development. This means that it is virtually impossible for a Palestinian to obtain a permit for construction, while Israeli settlements receive preferential treatment in the allocation of water and land, and approval of development plans.
Most demolitions have targeted already vulnerable Bedouin and herding communities. In many cases, demolition orders have been issued to virtually the whole community, leaving these communities facing a real danger of complete destruction. UNRWA is particularly concerned about the situation of about 20 Bedouin communities living in the Maale Adumim settlement area in the periphery of Jerusalem. The vast majority are refugees and they recently faced a new wave of demolition orders, stop-building orders, property confiscations, settler harassment and multiple warnings of imminent eviction by the Israeli Civil Administration. They are now left with the risk of losing homes and means of livelihood once again.
|A young Bedouin looks on as her family packs up all their belongings and moves from their home of 35 years following settler attacks.|
Most recently, in July 2011, 19 Bedouin families – 127 people – decided to move from their Area C homes under fear of further settler attacks. This followed the detention of three community members for stone-throwing against settlers who forced their way into the Bedouins’ homes. The community has made clear to UNRWA that it is the lack of protection by the Israeli authorities against settler attacks which forced them to leave their homes.
The escalation in demolitions and recent settler activity in areas targeted for settlement expansion is a cause of great concern. This practice, combined with other Israeli policies in Area C, has exacted a terrible price from the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank, driving already poor families deeper into poverty. There is growing evidence that it is destroying the very fabric of these communities and ultimately contributing to a demographic shift which is changing the ethnic make-up of the West Bank.
Along with other UN agencies, UNRWA calls on the Government of Israel, among other measures, to end the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians in the oPt, including immediately ceasing demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures, until Palestinians have access to a fair and non-discriminatory zoning and planning regime. We call for transparency, accountability and an end to policies and practices that violate Israel’s obligations under international law.
For the latest demolition figures, see our demolition watch section.
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UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals. UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.
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