THE United Nations (UN) has led international condemnation of Israel, after its army demolished dozens of Palestinian houses in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli authorities said that the homes in the neighbourhood of Sur Baher, in East Jerusalem, had been illegally built too close to the separation barrier.
But a statement by senior UN officials working in Palestine said that the sudden destructions, forcing families out of their homes with no notice, in the early hours of the morning, was contrary to international humanitarian law.
“Furthermore, 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.
If Israel had respected its human-rights obligations, “the people of Sur Baher would not be experiencing the trauma they are today and violations of their rights”.
The Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Dr Mohammad Shtayyeh, said that the demolitions were a “war crime and a crime against humanity”, and vowed to complain to the International Criminal Court.
“Where are the Palestinian people supposed to live?” Mohammed Abu Teir, who owned some of the bulldozed buildings, said to The Washington Post. “We are surrounded by the wall and by settlements. The Israelis want to empty this area of all the Palestinian residents so they can expand their own neighbourhoods.”
But Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, said that the “illegal constructions” had posed a security threat, which his country had the authority to respond to under the Oslo Accords.
The UN Under Secretary-General of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, told the Security Council on Tuesday that the changing circumstances on the ground in Israel and Palestine made a peaceful two-state solution harder and harder to achieve.
In the past three months, 66 Palestinian buildings had been demolished, while Israeli courts had cleared the way for up to 2000 new housing units in illegal settlements.