Israeli demolitions during the period March-August 2020 left 442 Palestinians homeless, further exposing many to risks associated with COVID-19. (Sliman Khader/FLASH90)
The period from March to August 2020 saw the demolition or confiscation of 389 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, on average, 65 per month, the highest average destruction rate in four years, said the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Coordinator, Jamie McGoldrick.
He said in a statement that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Israeli authorities indicated that they would restrain their longstanding policy of demolishing inhabited Palestinian homes.
"Sadly, demolitions during the period March-August 2020 left 442 Palestinians homeless, further exposing many to risks associated with the pandemic. In August alone, 205 people were displaced, more than in any other single month since January 2017," he said.
"Beyond homes, the targeted properties included water, hygiene or sanitation assets, and structures used for agriculture, among others, undermining the access of many to livelihoods and services. Moreover, 50 of the structures had been given to Palestinians as humanitarian aid, and their destruction hit the most vulnerable of all, and undermined emergency operations," McGoldrick added.
"Of specific concern is the Israeli authorities' increased use of an expedited procedure (Order 1797) for the removal of structures as soon as 96 hours after delivering a notice, largely preventing owners from being heard before a judicial body," added the UN Resident Coordinator.
He continued, "When the Israeli authorities demolish, or force people to demolish, homes and sources of livelihood, they typically cite a lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain, due to the restrictive and discriminatory planning regime, and leaves them no venues for authorized construction."
"Moreover, the demolition of essential structures during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly worrying as it further compounds the overall situation in the West Bank."
McGoldrick further stated that the global pandemic has increased the needs and vulnerabilities of Palestinians, who are already trapped in the abnormality of prolonged military occupation, adding that unlawful demolitions exacerbate these vulnerabilities and must stop immediately.