NGOs urge Israel to cease West Bank demolitions

AFP , Wednesday 4 Dec 2013

(Photo: Reuters)

A group of 36 NGOs urged Israel Wednesday to stop demolishing Palestinian homes, hours ahead of a Middle East visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry aimed at revitalising peace talks.

"Since the resumption of the peace process in July, Israel has destroyed 207 Palestinian homes and property in the occupied West Bank, displacing 311 Palestinians, over half of whom are children," rights groups and charities including Oxfam, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a joint statement.

They said destruction of homes was a "direct violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, which prohibits demolitions carried out without military necessity.

"Demolitions often occur to facilitate the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, with 60 percent of demolitions occurring in Palestinian communities close to settlement zones."

Israel's settlement building threatens to derail the fragile peace talks, with the Jewish state announcing thousands of new homes in the West Bank on territory the Palestinians want for a future state since negotiations began in July.

Kerry was expected in Israel late Wednesday to try to boost the US-brokered talks, just weeks after Palestinian negotiators resigned over Israel's settlement activity.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has not accepted their resignation, saying his side will sit out the nine-month period set aside for talks, even if they end in failure.

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