Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes has displaced 149 children in the West Bank so far this year, figures from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees show.
Between January and April, Israel destroyed at least 193 Palestinian structures, including 78 residential units, forcibly displacing 333 Palestinians, UNRWA said.
The figures show a sharp rise from with the same period in 2010, when 142 Palestinians — including 61 children — were forcibly displaced.
On Sunday EU commissioner Kristalina Georgieva urged Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian homes, during her visit to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
"Any action that leads to forced displacement must stop," the commissioner said, adding that Israel’s right to security did not clear the state of its obligation to respect international law.
"Notably women and children live under the constant threat of harassment, eviction and disruption of their lives," Georgieva said.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Ma’an that the UN agency was particularly concerned about the "incalculable" impact of the demolitions on children.
On the anniversary of the Nakba — the forced displacement of 760,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948 — the UN figures show that Israel’s policies continue to discriminate against Palestinians.
"Whether you call this ethnic cleansing or not, this policy is discriminating against one ethnic group, the Palestinians," Gunness noted.
The UNRWA official added that home demolitions in Jerusalem were particularly alarming.
"We are concerned about Jerusalem which is being drained of its Palestinian population due to these policies which lead to forced displacement," Gunness said.
UNRWA provides services for millions of Palestinian refugees living in camps across the region. Over the weekend, Israeli forces killed at least 14 protesters at rallies demanding that Israel recognizes the refugees’ right to return home.
UNRWA commissioner-general Filippo Grandi deplored the killings, which he said demonstrated the vulnerability of Palestinian refugees.
"I deplore the deaths of Palestine refugees in Lebanon, the occupied Golan Heights and the occupied Palestinian territory," Grandi said in a statement.
"They underline the need for a just and durable solution, based on UN resolutions, to resolve the plight of those who have endured statelessness, exile and dispossession for 63 years."
Grandi urged parties to address the fate of the refugees, particularly at a time of profound changes in the region.
"I fear that failure to do so will only lead to more instability and further loss of life," he added.