UN condemns Israel’s West Bank expansion

22 Jan 16

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has condemned a move by Israel to claim 370 acres of land in the occupied West Bank as a “violation of international law”.

In a statement delivered by a spokesperson last night, Ban expressed deep concern around reports that the Israeli government had authorised what would constitute the largest land grab by Israel in the West Bank since 2014.

Israel’s Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday that officials have approved the expropriation of some 370 acres of land in the West Bank, near the city of Jericho, as ‘state land’, an announcement which was also confirmed yesterday.

“The secretary general reiterates his call for substantial policy changes on the ground by Israel that will improve the lives of Palestinians. Settlement activities are a violation of international law and run counter to the public pronouncements of the government of Israel supporting a two-state solution to the conflict.”

The announcement has drawn further criticism from the United States, and is likely to further exacerbate tensions with other western allies. This week, Israeli forces also demolished six structures in the West Bank funded by the EU’s humanitarian arm, which provided dwellings and latrines for Palestinian Bedouins living in the area.

On Wednesday, senior United Nations officials called for an end to Israeli plans to move Bedouins living in the Jerusalem area in order to expand settlement, with the UN again highlighting that this has long been recognised as a violation of international law and an obstacle to realising the two-state solution to the Middle East crisis.

“I am once again deeply alarmed to witness Israel’s relentless push towards removing Bedouin Palestine refugees from their homes, destroying their livelihoods and their distinct culture,” said Felipe Sanchez, director of operations in the West Bank for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

“The children in these communities should not be experiencing the trauma of displacement that preceding generations have already experienced,” he added.

The UN said 26 Palestinian refugees, among them 18 children including four with disabilities, were displaced on 6 January following the destruction of their homes. On 10 and 14 January Israeli authorities confiscated eight donor-funded tents that had been provided to the families as a post-demolition humanitarian response.

The forced relocation of Bedouin communities to urbanised townships would threaten their culture and livelihoods, the UN highlighted.

“Under international law, Israel is responsible for meeting the needs of Palestinians living under its occupation and for facilitating humanitarian assistance, not for obstructing aid and pressuring residents to leave so that Israeli settlements can expand,” said Robert Piper, coordinator for humanitarian and UN development activities for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The international community must ensure that plans to transfer these communities are revoked, if the two-state solution is to be protected,” he urged.

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