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US blocks draft UN vote to condemn Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes

27th Dec 2019
US blocks draft UN vote to condemn Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes

Palestinians homes in Wadi al-Hummus neighbourhood of Sur Baher region of East Jerusalem being demolished with bulldozers under Israeli soldiers supervision on July 22. (Credit: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency)

Harun Nasrullah

The US blocked an attempt to get the UN Security Council to issue a formal condemnation of Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes on the edge of Jerusalem last month.

Israel has come under fire from the international community over the demolition of 12 residential buildings in an area known as Wadi al-Hummus, which is part of the southern Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sur Baher. The area falls just outside of Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and is part of the Palestinian Authority-controlled area of the West Bank.

The draft statement, circulated to the Security Council on July 23 by Kuwait, Indonesia and South Africa, expressed “grave concern” and warned that the demolition “undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for just and lasting peace,” Reuters quoted diplomats as saying.

After the US had said it could not support the statement — such condemnations require consensus from all Security Council members — a revised and watered-down version was also rejected by the US.

Addressing the UN Security Council, Palestinian Ambassador, Riyad Mansour, described the scenes of destruction as “shocking and heartbreaking” and “a blatant act of ethnic cleansing and forced transfer, tantamount to a war crime” that “must be fully condemned and prosecuted as such.”

Israel argued the buildings were constructed illegally and built too close to the security barrier that was built to prevent the “entry of terrorists” from the West Bank.

However, in 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled against the legality of the construction of the Barrier and found that the parts of the Barrier that run inside the West Bank, cannot be justified by military exigencies and thus violates Israel’s obligations under international law.

According to the UN, some 20 people already living in the buildings were being displaced, while 350 owners of properties that were under construction or not yet inhabited were also affected.

On July 21, several nations and international bodies, including France, Jordan, Qatar, the EU and the UN, condemned Israel’s razing of the buildings.

The EU said the demolitions undermined efforts to broker a lasting peace in the region, while senior UN humanitarian officials in the region expressed “sadness” over the demolitions and warned that many other homes could face “the same fate.”

“Israel’s policy of destroying Palestinian property is not compatible with its obligations under international humanitarian law,” the senior officials said. Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said the Palestinians would complain to the International Criminal Court.

“This is a continuation of the forced displacement of the people of Jerusalem from their homes and lands – a war crime and a crime against humanity,” Shtayyeh said.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, over the past 10 years, Israel has demolished more than 1,100 structures in occupied East Jerusalem, displacing more than 2,000 people and impacting the lives of more than 6,000 people.

Between January 2 and July 17 this year, Israel has destroyed 126 structures in East Jerusalem, displacing 203 people and affecting 1,036 people.

Unlawful transfer of civilians in occupied territory violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and constitutes a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

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