US, France and UN slam Israel's demolition of West Bank homes

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France, the US and the United Nations have raised concerns over the pace of Israeli demolitions in the occupied West Bank

A Palestinian child holds a national flag as she walks past the rubble of Palestinian homes destroyed by Israeli authorities on July 29, 2016 (AFP)
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Friday 12 August 2016 17:03 UTC
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Israel has razed more Palestinian homes, schools and other structures so far this year than in all of 2015, the United Nations said on Friday, as the United States and France expressed concern.

Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem have demolished 726 structures this year, displacing 1,020 Palestinians, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

In the whole of 2015 there were 533 demolitions and 688 people displaced, OCHA said.

The structures included houses, shelters for livestock and installations such as solar panels.

Many were funded by foreign donors such as the European Union and its individual member states, which say they are working to meet urgent humanitarian needs of people under military occupation.

Israel says it forbids unlicensed construction, invoking treaties with the Palestinians that give it full control over 60 percent of the West Bank designated as "Area C" and asserting sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.

Between August 2 and 8, OCHA said, "in 14 separate incidents in Area C and East Jerusalem, the Israeli authorities destroyed, forced owners to destroy, or confiscated 42 structures for lack of building permits, displacing 30 people."

Israeli pressure group B'Tselem said that since the start of the year Israel razed at least 188 homes in the West Bank alone, "the highest number since B'Tselem began documenting home demolitions on grounds of 'lack of building permits' in 2006."

France on Thursday condemned Israel's destruction last week of structures it funded in the West Bank village of Nabi Samuel.

It was the third time this year that Israel has torn down French-financed structures, said a French foreign ministry statement, "which includes the dismantling of a school in February."

"France is deeply concerned by the accelerated pace of demolitions and confiscations of humanitarian structures that should benefit the Palestinian population living in Area C," it added.

"We call on the Israeli authorities to put an end to these practices which are contrary to international law."

In Washington, the US State Department said it was worried about Israeli plans to raze the tiny Palestinian village of Susiya, in the southern West Bank.

"If the Israeli government proceeds with demolitions in Susiya, it would be very troubling and would have a very damaging impact on the lives of the Palestinians living there who have already been displaced on other occasions," spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters.

The village has been torn down before and its homes are mainly tents, caves and makeshift structures, along with a children's playground.

Israel says Susiya does not have a permit.