EU Slams Israel's Destruction of Palestinian Homes in West Bank's Area C

Israel has granted only 44 construction permits in response to over 2,000 requests, Lars Faaborg-Andersen tells Knesset meeting. Buildings that were destroyed were 'illegal buildings,' Israeli body says in response.

Israeli forces bulldoze a Palestinian home in the West Bank on July 26, 2016.
Israeli forces bulldoze a Palestinian home in the West Bank on July 26, 2016. Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

European Union ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen criticized Israel on Wednesday for destroying Palestinian homes in Area C of the West Bank.

Faaborg-Andersen said at a conference at the Knesset that from 2009 to 2013 Israel had provided only 44 building permits to Palestinians in response to about 2,000 requests.

"EU assistance is provided in situations where Israel is not fulfilling its duty as the occupying power. That is according to the international law, universal norms and the Oslo accords," Faabourg-Andersen told the conference initiated by lawmakers Dov Henin of the Joint List,  Michal Rozin of Meretz and Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union.

"Some 70% of Area C has been taken for exclusive Israeli use. Near all of the remain 30% is private Palestinian property, but is effectively off limits for Palestinian development, he said.

The envoy added that "in the first 6 months of 2016 alone 91 EU structures in Area C have been demolished. This is more than all of 2015. Since 2009, approximately 170 EU humanitarian structures have been demolished."

According to B'Tselem data presented at the conference, Israel has destroyed more Palestinian homes in the first half of 2016 than the annual average for the past decade except for 2013.

Israel has razed 168 Palestinian houses in Area C built against the law. By comparison 125 homes were destroyed in all of 2015. The number of homes destroyed the first half of this year is more than the annual average for the past decade except for 2013 when 175 homes were destroyed.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said in response that buildings that were destroyed were "illegal buildings which didn't receive a permit form the authorities and therefore enforcement procedures were employed against them."

Aviva Bar Ilan, who heads the Foreign Ministry department in charge of European organizations, said in January that the EU was weighing the possibility of suing Israel for damages for destroying structures donated by EU countries as humanitarian aid to Palestinian Beduouin living in the E1 area, outside Jerusalem.

"llegal construction merits destruction, Israel doesn’t accept the EU's interpretation of humanitarian aid," Bar Ilan said.