Saturday, June 25, 2011

Israel calls demolition report 'incorrect'

Israel calls demolition report 'incorrect'*

Published Thursday 23/06/2011

Their homes demolished by the CA on Tuesday, Ahmed Abdullah Harfi and his
family stand in front of the ruins. [MaanImages/Hilary Minch, EAPPI]

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's Civil Administration lashed out Wednesday night, calling a rights group report "incorrect and misleading," in its claim that home demolitions had spiked alarmingly in 2011.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem, had published a document saying more homes had been demolished in the first six months of 2011 than in the 12 months of the year before.

"Last week alone, 33 residential structures were demolished in the Jordan Valley and southern Hebron hills," the report said, cataloging the displacement of 706 individuals, including 341 minors.

A representative of the Civil Administration could not be reached for a follow-up comment to specify what in the B'Tselem report was identified as inaccurate or misleading.

"The Civil Administration has not put numbers or explanations to back up their criticisms," B'Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli told Ma'an, saying the group welcomed any investigation into the findings.

"In order to get the numbers, we corroborated with other rights groups and OCHA, all of our numbers are cross referenced with theirs, and are based on independent field work," Michaeli said, noting that B'Tselem's numbers did not include the demolition of animal shelters and storage containers which are included in reports from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The Bt'Tselem report also accused the Civil Administration of failing to include Palestinian communities into planning, and wrote that the body does "not enable any construction or development beyond what already exists, making it impossible for Palestinians to build legally in these areas."

In response, the CA said it "has recently formulated new criteria designed to aid in the process of approval of Palestinian urban master plans."

The statement also said it sought to "put things into context and clarify that enforcement [of demolition orders] carried out against the illegal Israeli and Palestinian construction is done due to the authorities' duty to uphold planning and construction law. This activity is carried out according to priorities that have been presented tens of times before the High Court of Justice.

"Among other things, priority is given to buildings that are located in fire zones, thus putting the lives of the residents in danger."

According to the latest report from OCHA, 18 percent of the West Bank has been designated as a "firing zone," a 2009 report notes that much of the land also "overlaps with that which falls under the jurisdiction of Israeli [settlement] regional councils."

Speaking for B'Tselem, Michaeli said the report did not dispute that the structures were illegal under Israeli law, saying "that's the problem."

The report called for "plans for Palestinian communities there that will reflect the needs of the population and enable these communities to develop."

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