Israeli Mayor of occupied Jerusalem, Nir Bakat, approved the demolition of two structures built by the United Nations (UN) as temporary emergency shelter for Palestinian families after Israel demolished their homes.Israel strongly condemned the erection of the emergency shelters in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina. Israel accused the UN of overstepping its bounds and asserted that the trailer homes are illegal and should be demolished according to reports in the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post as well as the Palestine News Network.
Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories defended the agencies actions as emergency humanitarian assistance provided when the Palestinian families turned to the UN agency for help.
Gaylard echoed the concerns of other human rights groups in the area and noted that Palestinians in East Jerusalem apply for housing permits but do not receive them. He added, “Where else could we put [the shelters]? We are helping the Palestinians on land that is theirs. Beit Hanina is occupied Palestinian territory.”
Other officials at the agency noted that they did not require a permit for building because in addition to being build on Palestinian land, they are only an emergency solution, are not connected to utilities, and do not have foundations.
An Israeli spokeswoman said in a statement, “Israel is not a banana republic, but a state of law and order. The UN can help to advance the residents’ quality of life in keeping with the law and we hope the construction violation at the site is not in accordance with the UN.’
The shelters have the UN agency’s logo on them along with the flags of the donor countries of Great Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Spain, The Netherlands and Ireland. Israeli officials claimed that the flags were only there to embarrass Israel in these countries as it destroys their donations.
If Israel is embarrassed by people outside of its borders watching as they demolish emergency housing for families, perhaps they should reassess their decision to do so.