NEW YORK: The United Nations (UN)’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says there has been a sharp increase in the number of Palestinian houses being demolished by Israel in the occupied West Bank during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The period from March to August 2020 saw the demolition or confiscation of 389 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, on average, 65 per month, the highest average destruction rate in four years,” the UN office said on Friday.
“Sadly, demolitions during the period March-August 2020 left 442 Palestinians homeless, further exposing many to risks associated with the pandemic,” it said.
OCHA further said that in August alone, 205 Palestinians had been displaced, more than in any other single month since January 2017.
The Israeli regime routinely demolishes Palestinian houses in the occupied West Bank, claiming that the structures have been built without permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain. They also sometimes order Palestinian owners to demolish their own houses or pay the costs of the demolition if they do not.
Meanwhile, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories Jamie McGoldrick warned that Israel’s demolition of Palestinian houses during the pandemic would make the Palestinians more susceptible to health risks.
“The destruction of property in an occupied territory is prohibited under international humanitarian law, unless absolutely necessary for military operations,” McGoldrick said.
“The global pandemic has increased the needs and vulnerabilities of Palestinians who are already trapped in the abnormality of prolonged military occupation. Unlawful demolitions exacerbate these vulnerabilities and must stop immediately,” the UN official said.More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.