France fumes over razing of Paris-funded Palestinian buildings

France on Thursday condemned Israel over last week’s demolition of several structures, funded by the French government, in a Palestinian village north of Jerusalem.

“France condemns the Israeli army’s destruction of several structures funded by France in the Palestinian village of Nabi Samuel (West Bank) on August 3,” the French government said in a statement.

“This is the third time that buildings funded through French humanitarian aid have been demolished or confiscated by Israeli authorities since the beginning of 2016, and notably follows the dismantling of a school in February.”

Paris also joined the US in denouncing the razing of three European Union-funded shelters in the West Bank on Tuesday, which it said constituted “a violation of international law.

“With several other EU projects destroyed south of Hebron, France expresses its deep concern over the accelerating rate of these demolitions and confiscations of humanitarian structures built for the Palestinian people in Area C,” it said. “We call on the Israeli authorities to end these operations, which are a violation of international law.”

Israeli authorities regularly demolish homes built by Palestinians in Area C, arguing they are built illegally without permits and outside areas zoned for Palestinian building. Israel does not balk at demolishing EU-funded structures, despite the open tension it causes with its powerful ally.

Tuesday’s demolitions of the three shelters and two other structures took place in the Palestinian village of Umm al-Khair, a small Bedouin village near the Israeli settlement of Carmel in the South Hebron Hills. It is in Area C of the West Bank, which is entirely under Israeli military control.

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem said 27 people lived in the demolished structures, of whom 16 were minors. They all lost their homes in previous demolitions in the same village, its statement said.

In April, six EU-funded modular homes were demolished in Umm al-Khair.

The US State Department on Tuesday said it was “troubled” by Israel’s “provocative” demolitions, saying it “raises serious questions” about the Jewish state’s commitment to peace.

“We remain concerned about the increased demolition of Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which reportedly have left dozens of Palestinians homeless, including children,” said spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau during a press briefing.

“We believe that this is part of an ongoing process of land seizures, settlement expansions, legalization of outposts, denial of Palestinian development,” she said. “We remain troubled that Israel continues this pattern of provocative and counterproductive action, which raises serious questions about Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”

A report by the Middle East Quartet — representatives of the US, UN, EU and Russia — released in early July accused Israel of undermining a two-state solution by making it nearly impossible for Palestinians to build in Area C, while allowing the expansion of Israeli settlements in the area.

EU Ambassador to Israeli Lars Faaborg-Andersen said on July 27 that, since 2009, approximately 170 EU-funded structures of a value of €300,000 have been demolished or confiscated and approximately 600 structures, worth over €2.3 million, have been served with demolition, stop-work or eviction orders and are therefore under threat of demolition.

During the first six months of 2016, Israel razed 91 houses built with “support of the European Union,” up from 70 in all of 2015, he said. The EU has invested €21 million in the last two years for development and humanitarian aid for Palestinians, he added.

Faaborg-Andersen said the EU would continue to provide aid to the Palestinians in Area C, despite the tension it generates with Jerusalem.

Dov Lieber