Photo: This three-year-old girl had been twice displaced with her family in the West Bank over the past year. Credit: UNRWA/Lara Jonasdottir. - Photo: 2019

UN Condemns Israeli Destruction of Palestinian Homes

By Sean Buchanan

NEW YORK (IDN) – Calling it “not compatible with Israel’s “obligations under international humanitarian law”, the United Nations has condemned Israel’s demolition July 22 of 70 homes in an East Jerusalem neighbourhood under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Israel’s Supreme Court has reportedly ruled that the houses in the Palestinian community of Sur Bahir were built too close to the separation barrier in the occupied West Bank, violating a construction ban.

“Among other things, the destruction of private property in occupied territory is only permissible where rendered absolutely necessary for military operations, which is not applicable,” said a joint statement issued by Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Gwyn Lewis, Director of West Bank Operations for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and James Heenan, head of the UN Human Rights Office in the area.

“Furthermore”, the statement continued, “it results in forced evictions, and contributes to the risk of forcible transfer facing many Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

The statement said that Israeli forces entered the community early on the morning of Monday July 22, while it was still dark. The large-scale operation forced families out of their homes and demolished a number of residential buildings on the East Jerusalem side of the Barrier.

“Among those forcibly displaced or otherwise impacted are Palestine refugees, some of whom today are facing the reality of a second displacement in living memory”, said the UN officials.

They stated that while humanitarian partners are poised to provide emergency response to those displaced or otherwise affected by the destruction of their private property, “no amount of humanitarian assistance can replace a home or cover the massive financial losses sustained today by the owners”.

Several of the affected people report having invested their life savings in the properties, after securing the required building permits from the Palestinian Authority.

“What happened today in Sur Bahir is of even greater significance, as many other homes and structures now risk the same fate,” said the senior UN officials.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), ruled against constructing the Israeli Barrier and found that the parts running inside the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – plus the Sur Bahir homes – “cannot be justified by military exigencies and thus violates Israel’s obligations under international law”, said the statement.

Moreover, in a resolution of July 20, 2004, the UN General Assembly demanded that Israel comply with its legal obligations as stated in the ICJ’s advisory opinion.

“Had there been concrete action to ensure respect for these principles, and for international humanitarian and human rights law, generally, the people of Sur Bahir would not be experiencing the trauma they are today, and violations of their rights,” the statement concluded.

In June, Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the UN Security Council that developments in the Middle East cannot be divorced from Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territory and settlement building.

“The persistent threat of war; unilateral actions that undermine peace efforts; and severe challenges to the fiscal viability of the Palestinian Authority” also gnaw into the scenario, he said.

While UN Security Council Resolution 2334(2016) calls on Israel to “cease all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory”, he said that “no steps have been taken to this effect”.

On the contrary, “Israeli authorities advanced, approved or tendered nearly 6,000 housing units in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” he reported, saying that it constituted “the largest settlement advancement in two years”.

The Special Coordinator noted that some 20 percent of all the plans advanced or tendered were in settlements “deep inside the West Bank.”

He said that Israel’s National Infrastructure Committee rejected a series of objections against a controversial plan to construct a cable car between West Jerusalem and the Old City – raising concerns among East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents that it “seeks to deepen Israeli control over the area”.

Citing the absence of Israeli-issued building permits, Israeli authorities continue to demolish and seize Palestinian-owned structures across the occupied West Bank, according to Mladenov.

Noting “a very dangerous escalation of violence in Gaza, and continued violence in the occupied West Bank”, Mladenov recalled that Resolution 2334 also calls for “immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including all acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction”.

He outlined a number of incidents, including some 700 projectile missiles that continued to be launched from Gaza, starting fires in southern Israel. And the Israel Defence Forces report that it hit over 300 militant targets in Gaza.

Mladenov cited Israeli aggression as well, such as the death of some nine Palestinians, including three children, on March 30, 2019 when 50,000 Palestinians demonstrated for the anniversary of the Great March of Return; and the shooting death of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy arrested for throwing stones, who, while blindfolded, attempted to escape.

Although the resolution also calls upon the parties to refrain from provocative actions, incitement, and inflammatory rhetoric, “unfortunately, such actions continued”, lamented the UN envoy, detailing violations on both sides of the Palestinian question.

Although “some positive developments were witnessed”, most notably regarding the critical humanitarian and socio-economic needs in Gaza, Mladenov said that “they were significantly overshadowed by the negative trends”.

Mladenov observed that a lack of progress to create conditions for the parties to return to meaningful bilateral negotiations “remains critical”.

“Yet we must be clear,” said the Special Coordinator, that “no amount of humanitarian or economic support will resolve the conflict” because it requires “political solutions”. [IDN-InDepthNews – 23 July 2019]

Photo: This three-year-old girl had been twice displaced with her family in the West Bank over the past year. Credit: UNRWA/Lara Jonasdottir.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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