Aid agencies working in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem expressed concern on Friday at a sudden increase in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian property at the same time as renewed U.S.-backed peace negotiations.

“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,” said the statement by 25 aid organizations – including Oxfam and Christian Aid.

Of the 663 Palestinian structures torn down last year, the highest number in five years, 122 were constructed with international donor aid, the statement added, Reuters reported.

The number of demolitions increased by almost half and 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.

Citing Israeli obstruction and confiscation of aid, 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.

On Thursday, a U.N. agency sounded the alarm over Israel demolishing 390 shacks and other structures in the Jordan Valley in 2013, displacing nearly 600 Palestinians, twice as many as the year before.

Central issue

Earlier today, the Israeli military removed Palestinian activists protesting in a West Bank village, the status of which is a central issue in the U.S.-brokered peace discussions with the Jewish state, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Hundreds of activists had been protesting for a week at Ein Hijleh, a Palestinian village in the Jordan Valley abandoned after Israel captured the land from Jordan in the 1967 war.

The army said troops evacuated the activists after they ignored calls to leave the area.
Abdallah Abu Rahmeh, a protest organizer, said soldiers raided the site early Friday.

The fate of the valley is a sticking point in U.S.-led negotiations that seek to produce a deal on setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The Palestinians want that state to include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in 1967.

The Jordan Valley would form the eastern border of a Palestinian state with Jordan.

Israel seeks a long-term military presence in the valley even after any deal, citing security concerns, including the possible influx of weapons and militants from the east. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he would consider a gradual Israeli troop withdrawal from a Palestinian state over five years, but not longer.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Israel demolished 390 Palestinian-owned structures in the valley in 2013, up from 172 the year before. Some 590 Palestinians were displaced last year, compared to 279 in 2012, the agency said…. see more