Sharp rise in Palestinian structures destroyed by Israel

AFP , Wednesday 22 Jun 2011

An Israeli rights group reports a sharp rise in the demolition of West Bank buildings by Israel in the past year

There has been a sharp rise in the number of Palestinian structures razed by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank this year, with over 700 people left homeless, rights groups said on Wednesday.

So far, Israeli forces have demolished "103 residential structures ... most of them tents, huts, and tin shacks, in which 706 persons lived," Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said in a statement.

This was up from 86 structures in 2010 and 28 in 2009, B'Tselem said.

The Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank could not immediately be reached, but in the past Israel has said that it only demolishes structures built without permits.

B'Tselem said the Palestinians had no choice but to build illegally because Israel, which controls the occupied West Bank, rarely gives Palestinians permits to build.

"Few Civil Administration outline plans have been made for Palestinian communities, and they do not enable any construction or development beyond what already exists, making it impossible for Palestinians to build legally in these areas," B'Tselem said.

Human Rights Watch also called on Israel to cease the demolitions.

"Israel should end discriminatory policies that have forcibly displaced hundreds of West Bank Palestinian residents from their homes," the group said, calling on Israel to compensate them.

Most of the demolished structures were built by Bedouins in the Jordan Valley and the southern West Bank, HRW said.

In many of the cases, the army claimed the structures were built on land set aside for live fire exercises, B'Tselem said, noting that almost half of the land in the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area had been declared a "firing zone" and was therefore off-limits to Palestinians.

"The declaration means Israel has prohibited Palestinians from living in these areas, although Palestinian communities existed in them prior to the occupation," B'Tselem said.

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