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Only 30% of illegal buildings in West Bank Area C demolished: State comptroller

A Palestinian Bedouin looks at rubble after the Israeli army demolished a structure housing a family in the village of Khirbet Tana, in the northern West Bank, on November 3, 2014
Jaafar Ashtiyeh (AFP/File)
Pace of illegal construction increased and demolitions decreased in 2008-2013, report finds

The Israeli army demolished thirty percent of illegal construction in the West Bank over the course of 19 years, the state comptroller said on Monday, according to Israeli news site the Jerusalem Post.

The report said Israel's Civil Administration in the West Bank found 20,086 examples of illegal building in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control, between 1997 and 2013. The report noted that 13,481 of the illegal buildings were built by Palestinians and 6,605 by Israelis.

The Civil Administration razed 5,620 of these structures in that period.  According to the Jerusalem Post, the pace of construction increased and demolitions decreased in the six years between 2008 and 2013. That period saw forty-six percent of illegal construction. 

The comptroller also said that of all the buildings demolished from 1997 to 2013, only 24 percent were razed in 2008-2013.

Another issue raised by the comptroller was insufficient supervision of settlement building in the West Bank, said the Post.

In addition, the comptroller said that the Civil Administration suffered from structural issues that hampered its ability to fix its failures.

The comptroller's report came just ahead of Wednesday's Land Day, on which the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee said Israeli Arabs would protest and hold a general strike, as per the Jerusalem Post.  Israeli Arabs were reportedly preparing to protest house demolitions and potential evacuation of unrecognized Bedouin settlements.

The annual Land Day commemorates the 1976 deaths of six Galilee Arabs during riots over governmental confiscation of land.

The issue of construction and demolition in the West Bank has been an ongoing point of contention for both sides on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli right-wing politicians and activists have argued that the Civil Administration is overly critical of Israeli construction while allowing illegal Palestinian construction. Left-wing politicians and activists tend to say the opposite.

Earlier this month, the UN said Israeli forces demolished dozens of structures including a school in the northern West Bank this week, leaving 10 families homeless.

In February, European Union hit out at Israeli authorities after they demolished a school funded by the French government.

Also that month, Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said last month the number of such demolitions has tripled on average since the start of the year.

"Since the beginning of 2016, Israel has demolished, on average, 29 Palestinian-owned structures per week, three times the weekly average for 2015," he said.

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