Record Number of Palestinians Displaced by Unlawful Demolitions
Amnesty International, one member of a 20 member strong coalition of major international humanitarian and human rights organizations that work in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), issued a joint press release yesterday announcing that there has been a record number of unlawful demolitions by the Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, over the past year, displacing a record number of Palestinian families from their homes and calling on the Middle East Quartet to change their failing approach.
The Middle East Quartet, made up of representatives from the United States, Russia, the United Nations and European Union, is currently meeting in Jerusalem in an attempt to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The coalition believes that startling figures issued this year show a sharp deterioration in the situation on the ground and calls for an immediate and “radical” change in approach by the Quartet. Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director, Oxfam International and coalition partner said:
“The increasing rate of settlement expansion and house demolitions is pushing Palestinians to the brink, destroying their livelihoods and prospects for a just and durable peace. There is a growing disconnect between the Quartet talks and the situation on the ground. The Quartet needs to radically revise its approach and show that it can make a real difference to the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.”
Figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) show that since the beginning of 2011 more than 500 Palestinian homes, wells, rainwater harvesting cisterns, and other essential structures have been destroyed in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, displacing more than 1,000 Palestinians – doubling the number of people displaced over the same period in 2010, and the highest figure since at least 2005. More than half of those displaced have been children.
Children are particularly traumatized by the loss of their home and belongings as well as by the disruption to their lives and trauma to their parents.
Also, the sharp rise in demolitions in 2011 has been accompanied by accelerated expansion of Israeli settlements and an escalation of violence perpetrated by settlers.
Peace Now, an Israeli peace organization, has documented plans for around 4,000 new settler housing units that have been approved in East Jerusalem over the past 12 months – the highest number since at least 2006. Plus, in November, Israel announced plans to speed up construction of 2,000 new units in the West Bank including East Jerusalem.