JERUSALEM - The European Union has expressed frustration with Israel over its demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, with the EU ambassador taking the unusual step of reading out a joint statement denouncing the practice.At a meeting last week with the Israeli foreign ministry's newly appointed director-general, the ambassador delivered a stern diplomatic message, saying Israel was failing in its international legal obligations and needed to change policy.The issue came to a head after Israel issued demolition orders last month against 42 homes in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, where EU member states Belgium and Italy have funded a school and helped build structures for the local population of around 150.
"The practice of enforcement measures such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes and humanitarian assets (including EU-funded) and the obstruction of delivery of humanitarian assistance are contrary to Israel's obligations under international law," ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen said, with envoys from all EU member states present."We therefore call on Israel, as the occupying power, to meet its obligations vis-à-vis the Palestinian population..., completely stop these demolitions and confiscations and allow full access of humanitarian assistance."Faaborg-Andersen's intervention was first reported by Israel's Haaretz newspaper.A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment on the substance of the statement, known in diplomatic parlance as a demarche, but said it was delivered at a "get to know you" meeting with the ministry's director-general.The clampdown against Khan al-Ahmar, located in a sensitive area of the West Bank that Israel has earmarked for settlement expansion, is the latest in a series of demolitions that have been roundly condemned by the EU and the United Nations.Israel says the demolitions are necessary because the building was carried out without a permit in an area of the West Bank, known as Area C, where Israel retains full control. Area C makes up 60 percent of the West Bank, which the Palestinians want for their own state together with Gaza and east Jerusalem.
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