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Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
UK architects, planners and other construction industry professionals campaigning for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.


Erekat: Escalation of Israeli settlement construction a 'war crime'

13 April 2016       Ma'an News

A A bulldozer is seen next to a new housing construction site in the Israeli settlement of Har Homa (background) in east Jerusalem on March 19, 2014 (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat denounced on Wednesday recent Israeli plans to expand illegal settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, calling it a “war crime.”

“The continued Israeli colonization of Palestine is a war crime under international law,” Erekat said in a statement. “This is an official policy of the Government of Israel that continues to entrench Israel's colonial occupation and destroy the prospects of two independent states living side by side in peace and security on the 1967 border.”

“The latest approval of settlement construction, and the significant increase in Israeli settlement activity during 2016, should serve as a reminder to the international community of its responsibility to put an end to such crimes, and the importance of utilizing all avenues, including the United Nations Security Council, to hold Israel accountable for its continuous crimes, to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to honor the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people,” Erekat added.

Israel advanced plans for 250 percent more settler homes in the first quarter of 2016 than it did in the same period last year, Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said on Tuesday.

According to the organization, the Israeli government pushed forward plans for 674 housing units in settlements in occupied Palestinian territory between January and March, despite its declared "planning freeze."

Israel also retroactively legalized 175 settlement homes which had been previously built without government approval.

There are now some 550,000 Israelis living in Jewish-only settlements across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem has said that the settlements' existence "leads to violations of many of the human rights of Palestinians, including the rights to property, equality, an adequate standard of living and freedom of movement."


Israel destroys 3 homes, public park amid mass demolition campaign

APRIL 12, 2016 

Al-Walaja (Photo Credit: UNWRA)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Tuesday demolished three Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank village of al-Walaja and a children’s park near Nablus amid a mass escalation in demolitions across the occupied area this year.


A PA official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas, told Ma’an that Israeli bulldozers razed a children’s park in Zaatara south of Nablus.

The Israeli authorities gave no prior notice before demolishing the park, which was built last year with around $60,000 donated by Belgium via the Municipal Developing and Lending Fund, Daghlas said.

Locals told Ma’an that bulldozers escorted by Israeli military forces also raided the Ein al-Jweizeh area in northern al-Walaja near Bethlehem, demolishing three homes that were still under construction.

The homeowners -- al-Walaja residents Maher Abu Khyara, Issa Qintar and Obeida al-Muhtasib -- were reportedly told that the demolitions were carried out due to lack of proper building permits.

Locals said Israeli military forces had raided the village several days prior to take photos of a number of homes and deliver demolition orders to their owners.

A spokesperson for Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) had no information on the demolitions, and the Israeli army told Ma'an they were looking into the reports.

The demolitions mark the most recent to take place amid an intensified demolition campaign on Palestinian homes and structures across the occupied Palestinian territory this year.

Over 800 Palestinians have now been displaced since the start of 2016 due to the demolition of more than 500 structures in the occupied West Bank by the Israeli authorities, according to UN figures.

The majority have been carried out in Area C -- under full jurisdiction of the Israeli military -- where nearly 100 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits are denied by the Israeli authorities.

Last week an estimated 124 Palestinians were displaced in a single day from nine different communities, including the village of Khirbet Tana which has been destroyed four times over since the start of the year.

Residents of al-Walaja where Tuesday’s demolitions took place have lost over three-quarters of their land since Israel was established in 1948.

Israel’s separation wall encircles al-Walaja, and swathes of land have been reappropriated by the Israeli government for the construction and expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements of Gilo, Har Gilo, and Givat Yael. The government has also planned to confiscate hundreds of acres from al-Walaja for the establishment of a national park.

The record-high number demolitions this year comes as the Palestinian Authority is expected to present a draft resolution condemning Israeli settlements to the UN Security Council in New York in two weeks.

Despite repeated condemnations by the international community, Israel has come under little actual pressure to halt its settlement program, land seizures, or the forced displacement of Palestinian communities.

Israeli demolition of playground in Zaatara



France calls on Israel to halt new construction of Cremisan Valley separation wall

APRIL 9, 2016 

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The French Foreign Ministry called on Israel to halt renewed construction of the Israeli separation wall in the southern occupied West Bank’s Cremisan Valley, according to a statement published Friday.


“France is concerned by the Israeli authorities’ resumption of construction of the separation wall in the historical Cremisan Valley, which will affect several dozen Palestinian families in Beit Jala,” the statement read, referring to a Palestinian village west of Bethlehem city.

“This wall is a new obstacle to economic and social development in the town of Bethlehem,” the ministry said.

The French Foreign Ministry’s statement cited the 2004 International Court of Justice ruling that said that the separation wall was illegal and "tantamount to annexation."

“We consequently ask Israel to reverse this decision,” the statement concluded.

Israel's High Court of Justice in January denied a petition filed against the construction by the Municipality of Beit Jala, Beit Jala landowners and the Silesian women’s monastery in Cremisan, according to Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

The ruling came after the Israeli Ministry Defense renewed construction work on the separation wall near Beit Jala in August 2015, effectively separating the villagers from their privately owned farmland in the Cremisan Valley.

This segment of the wall is designed for the illegal annexation of the illegal Har Gilo settlement south of Jerusalem in order to make way for its connection to the illegal Gilo settlement.

Nearly 60 kilometers of Israel’s illegal separation wall already cuts through the Bethlehem district and is built on Palestinian land, according to UN figures.

Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Beit Jala broke out frequently in 2015 during protests against the renewed construction.

European Union missions to the West Bank in 2015 also expressed “concern” about the renewed construction work in Cremisan. Local Christian landowners in Beit Jala told a European Union delegation that construction of the wall could ultimately force them to emigrate and "cleanse" the area of its Christian residents.

Israel began building the separation wall with concrete slabs, fences, and barbed-wire inside the occupied West Bank in 2002 at the height of the Second Intifada, or uprising, claiming that it was crucial for security.