An independent United Nations expert has called on Israel to stop illegally demolishing Palestinian homes in the West Bank, including two apartment buildings in East Jerusalem where 150 people are about to be evicted, citing a recent surge in such actions.
“This pattern of eviction, demolition, expansion of settlements, and settlers’ violent expropriation of Palestinian homes in the occupied East Jerusalem violates fundamental human rights, as well as provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention governing belligerent occupation,” UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories Richard Falk said in a statement.
Since the beginning of 2011, Israel has demolished 96 Palestinian structures throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, consisting of 32 homes and other residential structures. As a result, 175 people, more than half of them children, have lost their homes, a sharp increase compared to the same period in 2010 when there were 56 demolitions and 129 people displaced. At the same time, Israeli settlements in the West Bank have continued to expand.
Mr. Falk described the decision to demolish the two buildings in the Beit Hanina neighbourhood of East Jerusalem as “particularly disturbing,” noting the families were given only 10 days to vacate their homes last Sunday. He said Israeli authorities often seek to justify demolition of Palestinian homes on the grounds that the owners lack building permits, which are next to impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
“Beyond the immediate dire consequences to individuals and families facing the loss of their homes, such acts form part of the broader picture of annexation, not as an Israeli legal claim but enacted increasingly as evidence of an Israeli political project,” he added.
Mr. Falk has been serving since 2008 in an independent and unpaid capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. He reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.
In January he called on the international community to intervene following what he termed a series of illegal acts by Israel, including the recent killing of four Palestinians in the West Bank and the demolition of the historic Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian landmark, to make way for the construction of more Israeli settlements.