23 December 2010
UNRWA’s West Bank Field Director, Barbara Shenstone, today condemned the demolition of two refugee homes in East Jerusalem. “These condemnable acts have a devastating impact. I call on the Israeli authorities to cease demolitions and evictions in occupied areas which are in contravention of Israel’s obligations under international law, including the UN convention on the rights of the child, to which Israel is a party. While children around the world are enjoying the holiday season in their homes, these children have suffered the trauma and indignity of watching their homes destroyed in the presence of their parents. It is extremely cruel and distressing. These refugee families having been displaced in 1948 find themselves homeless again.”
The nine-member extended Subuh family, whose home in the Rasalammound district of East Jerusalem was destroyed on 21 December, has been living at the location of their demolished home in two tents. The Jerusalem Municipality gave the family just one day to destroy their home and threatened to demolish the house in 24 hours unless they complied. The family destroyed the house themselves at a cost of 60,000 new Israeli shekels rather than pay the Municipality to do so, which costs twice as much.
Under orders from the Jerusalem Municipality the four-member al Shukiwi family also destroyed their home in the Ath Thuri district of East Jerusalem on 19 December. They demolished the majority of the building, but left the walls standing. The family has been told that tomorrow, a committee from the Jerusalem Municipality will visit and inform them if the entire building must be demolished.
UNRWA has given emergency food assistance, cash and social worker support to both families. Agency social workers are particularly concerned about the five children involved. After witnessing the demolition of his home, one of the children, aged two, said “all I want to do is die”.
There has been an increase in such demolitions in 2010, during which 396 Palestinian structures were demolished in East Jerusalem and other areas under full Israeli control in the West Bank. This compares to 275 in the previous year – an increase of almost 45 per cent. As a result this year, 561 people have been displaced, including 280 children, and the livelihoods of over 3,000 people have also been affected.
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UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for some 4.7 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a solution to their plight. The Agency’s services encompass education, health care, social safety-net, camp infrastructure and improvement, community support, microfinance and emergency response, including in times of armed conflict.
UNRWA is funded almost entirely by contributions from States. The Agency’s core budget for 2010-2011 stands at $1.23 billion. In 2009, emergency appeals for the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon amounted to $827.4 million.
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