Red Cross suspends emergency tents to Palestinians over seizures of aid

Red Cross suspends emergency tents to Palestinians over seizures of aid

PanARMENIAN.Net - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has stopped delivering emergency tents to Palestinians in a strategically sensitive part of the occupied West Bank amid concerns over the rising number of home demolitions being carried out by the Israeli army, The Telegraph reported.

Officials with the Geneva-based organisation are angry over increasing seizures of aid intended for Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley who have been left homeless after Israeli forces carried out demolition orders.

"We are suspending the distribution of shelter materials because we have seen a pattern of obstacles and confiscations," Jon Larrson, the ICRC's spokesman, told The Telegraph. "It's a difficult decision for us. We are hoping to re-issue shelter assistance as soon as possible in dialogue with the Israeli authorities. We will resume when we get the message that our shelter materials will no longer be confiscated."

The ICRC will continue to deliver other forms of aid, he added.

The move comes after UN figures showed the number of Palestinian properties knocked down in the Jordan Valley due to lack of proper planning permission doubled last year - up to 390 compared to 172 in 2012.

Last week, the army destroyed tents and huts belonging to a herding community in Umm al-Jamal in the northern Jordan Valley, leaving 66 people - including 36 children - unhoused. Soldiers reportedly returned the following day to make sure there was no attempt to re-build.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Feb 6 25 international aid groups complained of "increasingly severe restrictions" in delivering assistance to Palestinians whose properties have been demolished in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Sixty-five aid items - including tents - were confiscated last year, the statement said, "in violation of Israel's obligation to facilitate the effective delivery of aid".

Some of the destruction has been of structures used to house livestock.

Residents say the demolitions are aimed at driving the Palestinian population out of the Jordan Valley, which has become a major stumbling block in on-going peace negotiations.

Israel insists that its troops should remain indefinitely in the area - which also home to around 4,500 settlers - after any deal. Right-wingers in Benjamin Netanyahu's government have called for it to be formally annexed, even though the Palestinians have earmarked it as part of a future state.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, has said he will not countenance the permanent presence of Israeli forces, leaving John Kerry, the US secretary of state, to seek a compromise.

The ICRC's decision comes after hundreds of Palestinian activists set up a protest camp aimed at demonstrating opposition to Israeli demands on the site of an ancient Canaanite village near the Jordanian border.

The camp, which has been established on land belonging to a Christian monastery, St Gerasimos, has been monitored round-the-clock by Israeli soldiers since protesters began arriving on Jan 31.

"We are sending a message to Mr Kerry and the United States that we cannot have an independent and real state without the Jordan Valley," said Moustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian legislator who is one of the protest organisers. "Any Israeli military or settlement presence here will mean we are not having a state because the Jordan Valley has the most important water resources. It is also our border. If the Israelis control the water and the border, we will not have a viable economy."

Photo: ActiveStills
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