The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories Richard Falk on Wednesday demanded Israel cease its demolition [press release] of Palestinian buildings in the West Bank [JURIST news archive] settlements. Falk reported that the demolition of Palestinian structures such as houses, animal shelters, water cisterns and roads have risen by 87 percent from last year. In addition, since the beginning of 2012 a total of 536 Palestinians have been displaced from their homes, including hundreds of children. According to Falk, Israelis are illegally expanding their territories near Susiya while the Israeli government does not interfere and the country's High Court of Justice promotes the demolition. The special rapporteur noted that Israel must abide by its international obligations:
If Israeli authorities want to respect their international legal obligations, they will freeze the demolition orders against Palestinians in Susiya and ensure that Salim and his wife and children no longer live in fear of having their home and well-being demolished by Israeli bulldozers.Falk is expected to present his findings and report to the 20th Session [materials] of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] on July 2.
West Bank settlements have sparked tension between Israel and Palestinian authorities as well as criticism by international groups despite the Israeli parliament's vote [JURIST report] against legalizing the unauthorized settlement earlier this month. The vote was in response to the country's Supreme Court [official website, in Hebrew] decision [JURIST report] ordering the 30 apartments in Ulpana neighborhood to be destroyed by July 1. Last week, the UN Special Rapporteur [official website] on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue reported [JURIST report] that people in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are limited in free expression due to lack of protection. Israel responded to international investigations into these settlements by announcing [JURIST report] in March that it will sever ties to the UNHRC. The announcement came after the UN body initiated its investigation to determine the effect that Israeli settlements have had on the civil, political, economic and cultural rights of the Palestinian people. Israel argued that this investigation was founded on bias against Israel. A month before, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] had urged [JURIST report] Israel to amend its policies that forbid Palestinians from traveling through and living in Gaza and the West Bank. Even in March 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called [JURIST report] in a press conference Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank "illegal."