Construction in the Israeli colony of Modiin Ilit in the West Bank. (AFP)
Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank tripled in 2010, figures from an Israeli human rights group showed on Wednesday, with a leap in the number in the Jordan Valley.
Annual figures published by B'Tselem showed that Israel demolished 86 homes across the West Bank in 2010, compared with 28 a year earlier.
Last year's house demolitions left 472 people homeless, almost half of them children, the figures showed.
Demolitions more than doubled in the Tubas region, which straddles the northern sector of the Jordan Valley, rising to 51 from 24 in 2009 and leaving some 219 people homeless, 94 of them children, the group said.
They also rose sharply in the Nablus district, which also covers the central Jordan Valley, with 19 demolitions last year, compared with none the year before, the figures show. Some 134 people were made homeless, 51 of them children.
B'Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said the group had noticed an increase in demolition activity in the Jordan Valley and in the south Hebron Hills area, which was supposedly aimed at razing Bedouin-owned structures built illegally.
"The trend now is toward demolishing temporary accommodation, usually put up by the Bedouin," she said, describing them as non-permanent structures largely in encampments, but stressed they served as homes.
"The net result is the same, people are displaced," she told AFP, saying it was not clear why the authorities were focusing their attention on these two particular areas.
"The ongoing policy seems to be aimed at pushing the nomadic community out of these areas and towards the population centres," she said.
A spokesman for the Israeli Civil Administration, the branch of the army responsible for all building issues in most of the West Bank, known as Area C, claimed he was not aware of any rise in demolition activity in the area.
"If there was a rise, it may be because we now have more inspectors to monitor compliance" with building regulations, Guy Inbar told AFP, saying the number of inspectors had risen at the end of 2008 when Israel began a 10-month freeze of Israeli settlement construction.
But he refused to provide any annual figures for house demolitions in the area.
Figures from the UN humanitarian agency OCHA were similar to B'Tselem's, with the number of home demolitions in Area C of the the West Bank rising from 56 in 2009 to 113 last year, and 478 people made homeless.
Area C covers some 60 percent of the occupied West Bank and is under full Israeli control. Building permits must be requested from the Civil Administration.
Figures from another Israeli NGO, Bimkom, show that around 95 percent of Palestinian applications for a building permit are rejected, with the Civil Administration only granting around 12 permits a year.