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Jordan Valley village at risk of 'forcible transfer,' warns UN

March 28, 2016 11:00 P.M. (Updated: April 14, 2016 5:57 P.M.)
A file photo of the Jordan Valley. (AFP/File)
By: Killian Redden

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A UN official warned Monday that the village of Khirbet Tana in the Jordan Valley was at risk of "forcible transfer" after a wave of Israeli demolitions left more than a third of its residents homeless.

"It's hard to see how demolitions like the ones in Khirbet Tana are about anything other than pushing vulnerable Palestinians out of certain parts of the West Bank," Robert Piper, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, said in a statement.

"We cannot watch silently as such fundamental humanitarian principles are violated."

In three separate demolitions since January, 87 of the village's 250 residents have lost their homes, the UN said last week. Israel's campaign has seen 53 structures torn down, including 18 donated by the international community.

"Palestinian communities like Khirbet Tana are amongst the most vulnerable in the West Bank," Piper said. "Communities that find themselves declared a "firing zone" face a high risk of losing their livelihoods, homes and schools.

"The destruction of the relief provided to these households in these harsh winter conditions adds insult to injury."

Khirbet Tana lies in an Israeli-declared military training zone, known as a "firing zone," which rights groups say Israel intends to fully annex.

The statement released by Piper's office said that under international law, Israel was prohibited from destroying Palestinian property unless required for security purposes, "which is not evident in this case."

"Destroying homes and livelihoods in order to place pressure on households to move places communities at risk of 'forcible transfer,' a grave breach of the laws of occupation."

Nearly 20 percent of the occupied West Bank has been declared "firing zones" since the 1970s, but according to the UN, recent research shows that nearly 80 percent of these areas are not in fact used for military training.

The demolitions in Khirbet Tana come amid the most extensive demolition campaign in the occupied West Bank in the last seven years, which has left more than 650 Palestinians homeless in under three months, more than half of whom were children.
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