Ministers ‘deeply concerned’ at spike in Palestinian home demolitions

Ministers ‘deeply concerned’ at spike in Palestinian home demolitions

Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood called on leaders to 'come to the table' to discuss the ongoing turmoil

A demolished house in East Jerusalem
A demolished house in East Jerusalem

Ministers are “deeply concerned” at a “worrying spike” in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank in 2016.

Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood has called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to “come to the table” to discuss the ongoing turmoil.

But he warned Israel that its actions were undermining the prospect of productive talks between the two sides.

Mr Ellwood told MPs during Foreign Office questions: “We are deeply concerned by continued demolition of Palestinian property by Israeli authorities and the worrying spike in the rate of demolitions this year.

“In all but exceptional circumstances, demolitions are contrary to international humanitarian law and we regularly raise our concerns about the demolitions with the Israeli government.

“We make it clear that such actions do not encourage the confidence building measures needed for talks to recommence.”

Richard Burden, the Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield, told the House that 649Palestinian properties have been demolished by Israel in 2016, according to statistics published by the United Nations.

He said: “It’s getting worse not better and I know the Minister as he said condemns these things – but if Israel feels it can continue with a culture of impunity, why should they stop?”

Mr Ellwood replied: “We absolutely agree that we are hugely concerned about the rate of demolitions, what is actually happening.

“We need to place additional pressure on Israel and indeed the Palestinians to come to the table.”

Tory former communities secretary Sir Eric Pickles stressed the importance of talks, but said: “There is the other side of the coin: 36 Israelis have been murdered this year, four foreign nationals have been murdered this year.

“Instead of condemning those murders, the Palestinian authorities have glorified them.

“Surely, given even this weekend that the Israeli prime minister said that he would meet without condition, we should be urging on the Palestinian authorities to do precisely that and have direct talks.”

Mr Ellwood said that Palestinian actions “do not go unnoticed” and should be condemned by the relevant authorities.

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