UNRWA: Hundreds displaced, rendered homeless by punitive Israeli demolitions

Chris Gunness, Spokesman, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA
Press Statement

Residents inspect the damage in a house demolished by Israeli troops at Qalandia refugee camp in the Israeli-occupied occupied West Bank, November 16, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Residents inspect the damage in a house demolished by Israeli troops at Qalandia refugee camp in the Israeli-occupied occupied West Bank, November 16, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

UNRWA is gravely concerned about the recent decision of the Israeli High Court of Justice to reject the appeals filed by Palestine refugee families against two punitive demolitions in Kalandia refugee camp. The two families were given five days as of 14 June to evacuate the apartments. Today, the family is in a state of perpetual apprehension as they wait for implementation of the punitive demolition which could occur at any undefined time.

The demolition orders were given for stabbing attacks perpetrated by individual members of the families outside Jaffa gate, Jerusalem Old City on 23 December 2015. Two Israeli civilians died during the attack while a third civilian was seriously wounded. The perpetrators were shot dead by Israeli Security Forces. The United Nations has repeatedly condemned all attacks against Israeli or Palestinian civilians, including in statements by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

UNRWA remains concerned that six Palestine refugees are at risk of being made homeless as a result of the punitive demolitions. Further, although the Court stated the demolition of the home located in the most crowded area should not involve explosives, it could impact other neighboring structures. On 16 November 2015, during a punitive demolition in the same refugee camp, 19 Palestine refugees were displaced and 46 persons were affected. Two Palestine refugees were also killed during the clashes that erupted during the operation.

Punitive demolitions are illegal under international law. UNRWA communicated its position to the Israeli authorities in April 2016 in the context of Israeli court proceedings relating to punitive demolitions in Kalandia refugee camp. UNRWA calls upon the Israeli authorities to put an end to the practice of punitive demolitions in the West Bank.

In 2015 and 2016, a total of 30 punitive demolitions were carried out, displacing and rendering homeless 243 Palestinians, including 42 Palestine refugees, as a result.