UN tells Israel to halt demolition of Palestinian homes

Palestinian Bedouin men react amidst the rubble of a structure after it was razed by the Israeli army in the West Bank village of Zayem, near Jerusalem November 29, 2011 (AFP Photo / Ahmad Gharabli)
The United Nations has demanded that Israel stops the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank following a report on the “dramatic” increase in homes being knocked down.

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The current policy and practice of demolition causes extensive human suffering and should end,” said the UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, Maxwell Gaylard.

According to the report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 622 Palestinian homes were demolished by Israeli forces in the West Bank in 2011, “forcibly displacing” almost 1,100 people, over half of them children, Agence France Presse (AFP) reports.

Gaylard said that on Thursday he visited the village of Anata near Jerusalem, which has recently seen seven Palestinian homes destroyed.

He was informed that bulldozers and troops had arrived in the middle of the night of 23 January and that 52 people, including 29 children, had been forced from their homes, which were then completely destroyed,” a UN statement said.

Israeli authorities insist that they only demolish homes built without the required permission. But the Palestinians say they are rarely granted permits, according to AFP.

The Palestinians are refusing to return to negotiations with Israel over its settlements in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Israeli diplomat and former ambassador to Russia Anna Azari told Interfax news agency that Israel is not going to freeze its settlement activities in the West Bank in order to restart talks with the Palestinians. “I would like to remind you that Israel had already frozen settlement activity for 10 months but, nevertheless, Abbas did not come to the negotiations table. So we will not repeat that.”

As tensions between the two sides grow, UN chief Ban Ki-moon is planning to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah next week.