Israel slammed for demolition of Belgian-funded Palestinian homes

Israel slammed for demolition of Belgian-funded Palestinian homes
Illustration picture shows an Israeli fenced barrier near the south west corner of the West Bank. Credit: Eman/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Belgium has condemned the Israeli government's destruction of Belgian-funded homes in occupied West Bank territories in Palestine and urged Israel to refrain from destroying Palestinian schools.

Four homes in al-Rakeez, in the occupied Palestinian Territories, were demolished by Israeli authorities in violation of humanitarian international laws, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

"This essential infrastructure was built with Belgian funding, as part of humanitarian aid implemented by the West Bank Protection Consortium. Our country asks Israel for compensation or restitution for these destructions," the ministry said in a statement.

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The ministry, which came under the leadership of former caretaker prime minister Sophie Wilmès in October, also expressed "particular concern" over Israeli authorities' orders to demolish EU-funded schools in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank.

"Belgium calls on the Israeli authorities not to execute the demolition orders for the schools in Ras al-Tin, Jinba and Khirbet al-Fakheit, as well as to safeguard all 52 schools in the West Bank at risk of demolition."

Belgium's statement comes after the Israeli army on Tuesday razed an entire Palestinian village to the ground, leaving 73 people, including 41 children, homeless.

Israel claims that the destroyed structures had been erected illegally by Bedouin residents in a military live-fire zone. The residents had appealed to the Israeli High Court to cancel the demolition orders but the petition was rejected in 2019.

Described as "appalling" by Foreign Affairs, the demolition date coincided with the immediate and media-frenzied aftermath of the US election and was ordered by Israeli administrators of the West Bank, because tents and shack houses were built "illegally" in the area, used as training grounds by the Israel military.

The destruction of the village drew international rebuke, with the United Nations describing it as the "largest forced displacement incident," in the area in four years and the EU slamming Israel's move as detrimental to peace efforts in the area.

The EU said in the statement that the  the demolition of the more than 70 structures on Tuesday confirmed a "regrettable" trend of land confiscations and demolitions by Israeli authorities observed throughout the year.

"The EU reiterates its call on Israel to halt all such demolitions, including of EU-funded structures, in particular in light of the humanitarian impact of the current coronavirus pandemic."

Asked at yesterday’s press conference about EU’s opinion on the demolitions, the lead spokesperson for foreign affairs, Peter Stano, referred to the statement. He added that the EU is reaching out to Israel and will try to solve the issue by mutual engagement. “Outreach is our main diplomatic tool,” he said.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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