The civil administration demolished more Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank over three months in 2016 than it did in all of the previous year, the UN Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs said on Friday.
“Thus far in 2016, the Israeli authorities have demolished 539 structures in Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank, compared to a total of 453 in Area C in all of 2015,” it said.
The Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria says it removes Palestinian and Beduin structures that were built illegally without permits.
Many of those structures are temporary ones, in herding Palestinian and Beduin communities, where the civil administration often carries out enforcement actions.
Some of the structures house animals. A portion of the more modern modular structures, which the civil administration has demolished, are constructed with funding from the European Union.
Robert Piper, a United Nations assistant secretary-general and the head of humanitarian affairs for the Palestinian territories, briefed EU officials on the situation in Brussels on Friday, urging them to respond to the demolitions.
“We have entered a new and fairly disturbing phase in terms of the confrontation between international humanitarian law and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank,” Piper told Reuters.
“The pace of demolitions has exceeded any previous records and we are only in the fourth month of the year. We are very worried about what the rest of the year holds,” Piper said.
Piper said around 140 aid projects by donors were destroyed, including more than €200,000 worth of EU investment, while some 600 people had lost their homes and about 2,000 their livelihoods.
In carrying out the demolitions, he said, Israel had forced Palestinians away from some parts of the West Bank.
“The EU needs to reflect on its strategy and how it’s going to respond... This can’t be left unaddressed. It’s a provocation,” he said.
Piper challenged the IDF’s justification for the demolitions, saying Israel did not give the Palestinians living there a real chance to obtain building permits.
Piper said that, while there was much diplomacy going on behind closed doors, there was a need for more public statements on the matter, adding that the EU could deploy diplomats to the sites affected to send a political message to Israel.
“We also need to talk about forms of seeking financial compensation or restitution by the occupying power,” he said.
In New York, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, urged the Security Council to take action on the matter in the weekly letter which he writes to that body detailing Israeli actions against Palestinians.
“We urge the international community, in particular the Security Council, to demand an immediate end to this illegal Israeli practice,” he wrote.
He wrote his letter on the same day that the UN’s Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs warned that the number of IDF demolition of Palestinian structures in 2016 had already outpaced that of 2015.
According to OCHA, civil administration demolitions this year have displaced 804 Palestinians and Beduin in Area C, up from the 580 who were displaced in 2015.
Just last Thursday, the IDF’s civil administration razed 54 structures, of which 18 were donor-funded, displacing 124 people, including 60 children, OCHA said.
Of these, 14 structures, nine of which were residential, were demolished in Beduin encampments in the area of E1, which is within the boundaries of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement just outside of Jerusalem.
The demolitions displaced 55 people, including 31 children, OCHA said.
In the Beduin village of Khirbet Tana, 34 structures were demolished, of which 13 were donor-funded, OCHA said.
It added that 69 Palestinians, including 29 children, were displaced. The village is located in an IDF firing zone outside Nablus.
It’s the fourth time this year that the IDF has taken down structures in that village.
The civil administration also took down structures in the a-Za’ayem village outside of Jerusalem, Ni’lin outside of Ramallah and El-Khader outside of Bethlehem.
The civil administration did not provide the total number of structures that were demolished on Thursday.
Of its actions on Thursday, it said, “Enforcement actions were carried out today against both illegal buildings in Ni’lin.
Enforcement actions were also taken against illegal construction in the E1 and against tents, pens and illegal cave openings in Khirbet Tana, which is located in a firing zone. It is prohibited by law for people to live there, because there presence is dangerous and poses a risk to their lives.”
It added that all the structures that had been razed were constructed without the necessary permits and enforcement action was taken against them after all the appropriate steps had been taken.”
The Jerusalem Periphery Forum, a nongovernmental group of settlers, welcomed the demolitions. Their group, along with Regavim and rightwing politicians have argued for the last few months that the civil administration is not doing enough to tackle the issue of illegal Palestinian construction.
It has argued that the construction is not random but rather an attempt to create facts on the ground, so that the Palestinians can better consolidate their hold on territory in Area C of the West Bank.