Israel razes homes in ‘Palestinian-controlled’ area

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Israeli bulldozers demolished four homes on Tuesday in an area of the Jordan Valley just north of Jericho that is supposed to be under full Palestinian control, the family and the city’s Palestinian governor said.

The Israeli defense ministry confirmed the demolitions in Al-Nuweima but did not specify whether the houses lay in so-called Area A of the occupied West Bank, lands on which the Palestinians are supposed to enjoy full civil and security control.

Mohammed al-Zaid, 66, whose sons own the bulldozed properties, told AFP the homes were located in a section of Area A land just north of Jericho, one of the few parts of the Jordan Valley where Palestinians can build.

He said that nonetheless the Israelis had been informed of the plans for their construction and had given their consent.

“My sons and I built in this area with the consent of the Israelis through plans presented to them by the Palestinian liaison,” he said.

“I do not know why the occupation’s bulldozers demolished the houses, where more than 40 people live -- my sons and grandchildren.”

Jericho governor Majid al-Feytani confirmed the houses were located in Area A and strongly condemned their demolition.

“This is a classified as Area A and we are alarmed by and strongly condemn the measures taken by the occupation authorities,” he told AFP.

The family said each house had three rooms and there was also a sheep pen at the site.

A statement from COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry unit responsible for building issues in most of the West Bank, confirmed the demolitions, saying the structures were illegally built, without commenting on claims they were located in Area A.

“These are illegal structures that had been built without a building permit, and were demolished after a Supreme Court decision from 14/11/12,” it said.

“After the decision, the residents were given two extensions for them to implement the court’s decision or to request permits. However, they've chosen to ignore this possibility.”

Israel’s policy of house demolitions predominantly affects Palestinians living in land designated as Area C, which is under full Israeli civilian and security control and which covers some 60 percent of the West Bank.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, who lives in Jericho, also confirmed the demolitions.

Last week, he accused Israel of seeking to displace Palestinians from the Jordan Valley, which flanks the West Bank’s eastern border with Jordan, as part of a campaign to undermine peace efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Israel, he said, had “a systematic plan for destroying Kerry’s efforts which involves an escalation of settlement building, a displacement of the population of the Jordan Valley, an increase of settler attacks against our people and confiscation of our land.”