UN agency condemns Arab home demolitions in Jerusalem

Palestinians take apart their makeshift home in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ras al-Ammoud, 21 December The Subouh family took apart their home to avoid the municipal demolition fee

The UN relief agency UNRWA has condemned Israel's demolition of homes in East Jerusalem, up 45% this year.

It said 396 buildings were razed in 2010, compared with 275 last year, in occupied East Jerusalem and other West Bank areas under Israeli control.

As a result, 561 Palestinians - including 280 children - were displaced, it said.

Israel's interior ministry says it has the right to demolish homes that are built without Israeli permission.

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967. An estimated 200,000 settlers live there, alongside 250,000 Palestinians.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed this month over Israel's refusal to stop building homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, where settlements take up some 40% of the Palestinian territory.

Illegal demolitions

"I call on the Israeli authorities to cease demolitions and evictions in occupied areas which are in contravention of Israel's obligations under international law," UNRWA's West Bank Field Director, Barbara Shenstone, said in a statement.

Ms Shenstone cited the case of the nine-member Subouh family, whose home in the Ras al-Ammoud district of East Jerusalem was destroyed on 21 December.

The family has been living on their property in two tents after the Jerusalem municipality gave them 24 hours to demolish their home, she said.

The family destroyed the house themselves at a cost of 60,000 shekels ($17,000; £11,000), rather than pay the municipality to do so, which costs twice as much, she added.

East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory under international law, but Israel annexed the area in 1981 and sees it as its exclusive domain.

According to a UN report earlier this year, Palestinians wanting to build a home can seek permission to do so only in a small area that comprises about 13% of East Jerusalem and is already densely populated.

As a result at least 28% of all homes have been built illegally.

Out of the 250,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, the UN says, 60,000 are at risk of having their homes demolished by the Israeli authorities.

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