U.N. officials urge Israel against toppling Palestinian homes

Top United Nations aid officials are urging the Israeli government to dispense with plans to demolish Palestinian-owned housing properties near East Jerusalem, a move that’s already been cleared by the nation’s high court.

A Palestinian boy stands Friday near homes slated for Israeli demolition in Sur Baher, West Bank. Photo by Debbie Hill/

U.N. coordinator Jamie McGoldrick, Relief and Works agency executive Gwyn Lewis and High Commissioner for Human Rights head James Heenan called on the government to change its mind about razing Palestinian apartments in the Sur Baher neighborhood of the West Bank. Most of Sur Baher lies within Israeli-controlled East Jerusalem, but a corner is part of the occupied West Bank.

Israeli officials have said they plan to demolish 10 buildings, which stand inside a buffer zone on the Israeli side of the East Jerusalem separation wall. The high court ruled the buildings can be torn down because their construction violated a 2011 Israeli order that barred building in the buffer zone. Residents were given a notice of intent to demolish that expired Thursday.

“Seventeen Palestinians, including nine Palestinian refugees, face the risk of displacement, and over 350 others risk massive property loss … including around 70 apartments,” the McGoldrick, Heenan and Lewis said in a joint statement.

“Displacement, particularly for the most vulnerable, is traumatic and has lasting consequences.”

They urged the Israeli government to to “halt plans to demolish these and other structures and to implement fair planning policies that allow Palestinian residents of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the ability to meet their housing and development needs.”

Hagai El-Ad, executive director of human rights group B’Tselem, said the Supreme Court should look at its own record.

“The court routinely rejects petitions filed by Palestinians — while providing a stamp of legal approvals to systematic human-rights violations,” he told Al Jazeera.

B’Tselem said Israel’s high court has never ruled in Palestinians’ favor in a housing demolition case.

ByNicholas Sakelaris