The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories on Friday criticized Israel’s demolition of 36 homes in the Jordan Valley and urged a halt to such actions in the West Bank.
Hundreds of activists later staged an overnight demonstration in the Jordan Valley region.
The moves came as fresh opinion poll evidence showed that faith in the Middle East peace process has largely evaporated among both Israelis and Palestinians.
The demolitions in the Jordan Valley community of Ain el-Helwe on Thursday displaced 66 people, including 36 children, James Rawley said in a statement.
“I am deeply concerned about the ongoing displacement and dispossession of Palestinians ... along the Jordan Valley where the number of structures demolished more than doubled in the last year,” he said. “This activity not only deprives Palestinians of access to shelter and basic services, it also runs counter to international law.”
His office said more than 1,000 people had been displaced last year in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem by demolitions on the grounds that homes had been built without Israeli permits, “which are virtually impossible to obtain.”
On Friday, about 300 Palestinians together with Israeli and foreign activists set up camp in abandoned houses near Jericho in the West Bank to protest against Israel’s refusal to pull out of the Jordan Valley in case of a peace deal, a photographer said.
The demonstrators in Ain Hijleh village were equipped with generators and said they planned to spend the night in around a dozen of the houses, as Israeli troops and police kept watch from a distance.
They held a banner reading: “No peace with settlements.”
Their action — dubbed “Melh al-Ard” (salt of the earth) — aimed “to revive an old Palestinian Canaanite village in the Jordan Valley,” to counter any Israeli annexation plans, the activists said in a statement.
They condemned Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
His efforts would “establish a disfigured Palestinian state and recognizes the Israeli entity as a Jewish state,” they said.
Such a state would put Arab Israelis at risk of deportation at any time, the activists said.
Faith in the Middle East peace process has largely evaporated among Israelis and Palestinians in the two decades since the Oslo accords, a new Zogby Research Services poll found on Friday.
“Twenty years later only 18 percent of Palestinians and 19 percent of Israelis view Oslo as a positive development in the history of their relationship,” it said.