Aid agencies working in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have expressed alarm at a spike in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian property, which coincides with renewed US-backed peace negotiations.
The number of demolitions increased by almost half, the displacement of Palestinians by nearly three-quarters, between July 2013, when the talks began, and the end of the year, compared to the same period in 2012, a statement released by 25 aid organizations on Friday said.
Of the 663 Palestinian structures torn down last year, the highest number in five years, 122 were built with international donor aid, the aid groups said.
The International Red Cross announced this week it would stop delivering tents to Palestinians made homeless by demolitions in the Jordan border region of the occupied West Bank, citing Israeli obstruction and confiscation of aid.
“International and local aid organizations have faced increasingly severe restrictions in responding to the needs created by the unlawful demolition of civilian property, in violation of Israel’s obligation to facilitate the effective delivery of aid,” wrote the groups, which included Oxfam and Christian Aid.
Israeli military and political officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Protesters Ejected from West Bank Camps
With a nine-month target date set by Washington expiring in late April, disputes holding up peacemaking include Israel’s insistence on keeping a military and settler presence in the Jordan Valley, the future Palestine’s eastern border.
The fate of the strategic Jordan Valley – the proposed eastern border of a future independent Palestinian state – is a central issue in peace talks. Israel wants to keep a security presence there after a deal is reached, citing security concerns, and has set up military zones and settlements.
Palestinians reject the presence of Israeli military and more than half a million Jewish settlers.
Hundreds of activists had been demonstrating for a week at the site of Ein Hijleh, a Palestinian village in the Jordan Valley abandoned after Israel captured the land from Jordan in the 1967 war.
Activists set up a protest camp in the village, but at dawn on Friday, Israeli forces raided the site and scattered them ahead of a mass rally for Friday prayers.
“They came in large numbers with their armored vehicles but that will not break our will, the popular resistance will continue and will be victorious and we will return,” Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the sit-in, said.
The military said troops had called on the activists to leave the area and evacuated them after they refused.
(Agencies via Al Jazeera – www.aljazeera.com)