The UN Works and Relief Agency claimed Tuesday that there is a clear link between illegal Israeli settlement expansion and the displacement of Palestinians through home demolitions. The agency released data indicating that the number of demolitions has dramatically risen so far this year.UNWRA spokesman Chris Gunness said, “Many displacements are taking place where settlements are expanding and with it we are seeing an upturn in vicious attacks by Jewish settlers. Palestinians are being thrown off their ancestral lands to make way for settlers.”

The agency released statistics that in first six months of 2011, 356 Palestinian homes have been demolished, compared to 431 in all of 2010. Also, 700 people have been displaced so far in 2011 where as in all of last year, 594 were displaced.

Gunness expressed concern over that fact that the increase in demolitions has occurred in areas designated or being targeted for settlement expansion.

The report identified house demolitions as one of many Israeli actions that cause displacement in the West Bank. These actions are “destroying the very fabric of these [Palestinian] communities and ultimately contributing to a demographic shift which is changing the ethnic make-up of the West Bank,” said Gunness.

The UN report condemns illegal and discriminatory Israeli actions and calls for the Israeli government to respect international law and for a cessation of Palestinian home demolitions.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. There are currently approximately 500,000 illegal Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.