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UN criticises Israeli demolition of homes in occupied West Bank

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has criticised Israel for demolishing 36 Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley and called for an immediate halt to such actions. In a statement, James Rowley expressed his "concerns" about the demolition of the houses owned by Palestinians in Ein-Al-Helwa neighbourhood. Almost 70 residents have been made homeless by Israel's destruction, including 36 children.

"This is a breach of international law and must stop immediately," he insisted. "I am deeply concerned about displacing the Palestinians and grabbing their properties, especially in the Jordan Valley." He noted that the number of Palestinian houses which have been demolished by the Israelis has doubled since last year; the number of people displaced has increased by 25 per cent.

Rowley reiterated that some UN partners offer the needed emergency aid for such displaced families, but these partners face increasing difficulties in the Jordan Valley because of restrictions placed on their work by the Israeli occupation authorities. More than 100 Palestinian-owned homes were demolished by the Israelis in January alone; 180 people, including 100 children, were made homeless by the demolitions.

Meanwhile, around 300 Palestinians supported by Israeli and international activists have occupied 12 deserted houses near Jericho in the occupied West Bank. The move was a protest against Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The protesters arrived at the deserted houses in buses. An AFP photographer said that they held posters with "No peace with settlements" written on them. The posters were signed by a group called "Youth against Settlements". The youth had generators with them as they plan to stay for a long time.

Witnesses said that the Israeli occupation police and army forces arrived in the area soon afterwards, but did not take any counter-measures against the protesters. In January 2013, however, a similar protest was broken up by the Israeli occupation authorities, who destroyed tents erected by Palestinian activists in protest against Israeli settlements.

During the visit to Israel of US President Barack Obama in March last year, about 200 Palestinian activists set up a camp in an Israeli settlement under construction. Several days after Obama left, the Israeli police drove the activists off the building site.

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