Israeli authorities on Tuesday demolished three European Union-funded shelters in the West Bank, drawing condemnation from a local human rights group.
The demolitions of the three shelters and two other structures took place in the Palestinian village of Umm el-Kheir, a small Bedouin village near the Israeli settlement of Carmel in the South Hebron Hills. It is in Area C of the West Bank, which is entirely under Israeli military control.
The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem said 27 people lived in the demolished structures, of whom 16 were minors. They all lost their homes in previous demolitions in the same village, its statement said.
In April, six EU-funded modular homes were demolished in Umm el-Kheir.
B’Tselem said Tuesday morning’s demolitions “demonstrate that the Israeli government continues its policy of destruction of Palestinian communities in favor of expanding [Jewish] settlements, a policy that drew international criticism in a recent Quartet report.”
That report by the Middle East Quartet — representatives of the US, UN, EU and Russia — released in early July, accused Israel of undermining a two-state solution by making it nearly impossible for Palestinians to build in Area C, while allowing the expansion of Israeli settlements in the area.
Israeli authorities regularly demolish homes built by Palestinians in Area C, arguing they are built illegally without permits and outside areas zoned for Palestinian building. Israel does not balk at demolishing EU-funded structures, despite the open tension it causes with its powerful ally.
While Israeli authorities did not immediately respond to an inquiry about Tuesday’s demolitions, the pro-settlement group Regavim praised the move, saying its complaint had led to the action.
“This morning’s action comes after years of lobbying against the EU’s rampant illegal building across Area C in total disregard for international law,” the group said in a statement. “Regavim’s work is beginning to bear fruit with a large increase in demolitions of European structures. We will not stop until there is a total European exit from all Israeli territory.”
EU Ambassador to Israeli Lars Faaborg-Andersen said on July 27 that since 2009, approximately 170 EU-funded structures of a value of €300,000 have been demolished or confiscated and approximately 600 structures, worth over € 2.3 million, have been served with demolition, stop-work or eviction orders and are therefore under threat of demolition.
During the first six months of 2016, Israel razed 91 houses built with “support of the European Union,” up from 70 in all of 2015, he said. The EU has invested €21 million in the last two years for development and humanitarian aid for Palestinian in the past two years, he added.
Faaborg-Andersen said the EU would continue to provide aid to the Palestinians in Area C, despite the tension it generates with Jerusalem.