Israel has stepped up its demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank in recent months, a UN official said Sunday, warning it hampered efforts to establish a Palestinian state.
"The number of Palestinian buildings in the West Bank demolished by the Israeli authorities has hit a record high for the third consecutive month," UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees) spokesman Chris Gunness said in comments e-mailed to reporters.
Gunness said that according to figures from UNRWA in March, 76 homes or structures were demolished compared with 29 in January and 70 in February.
"The number of people forcibly displaced by these demolitions has also hit a record monthly high with 158 people forcibly displaced in March by demolitions, including 64 children," he said.
Gunness said the policy was clearly one of "discrimination against one ethnic group" and together with Israel's continued construction of Jewish colonies hampered the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
"The West Bank is where the future Palestinian state is meant to be situated. Its viability is being further eroded with each demolition," he said.
Israeli military officials behind the demolitions could not immediately be reached for comment, but Israel claims it demolishes only homes that have been built without permits, which are rarely granted to begin with.