Israeli occupation authorities have demolished around 97 homes and 86 facilities in the occupied West Bank, over the month of February 2016 alone, under the pretext of “illegal construction”, according to a statistical report released Thursday by the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ).The Palestinian Institute also said, according to the PNN, that demolition orders and orders to stop construction were issued to a further 139 Palestinian houses and facilities.

An estimated 653 dunams of Palestinian land, throughout various parts of the occupied West Bank, are currently facing confiscation orders.

“The occupation has used the demolition policy as a way to put pressure on the Palestinians to empty the region classified as Area C in the West Bank,” Ghassan Doughlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank said. Doughlas added that the demolitions are part of a policy of a “collective punishment” policy imposed by the Israeli state.

On Thursday, hundreds of Palestinians participated in a protest organized in the city of Negev, south of occupied Jerusalem, in solidarity with the people living in the villages of Atir and Umm Al-Hiran, whose homes Israel decided to deport and demolish.

During the protest, Arab MK Taleb Abu Arar said: “What the Negev is experiencing is ethnic cleansing, not developments. All of the government plans aim to ethnically cleanse the area.”

At the same time, Kol Ha’ir, an Israeli weekly newspaper, revealed that the Israeli government is advancing construction plans to build about 1,000 housing units in four illegal settlements in occupied Jerusalem, despite the stiff international criticism.

The 1,000 housing units are scheduled to be built in Har Homa, Pisgat Ze’ev, Maale Adumim, and Modi’in illegal settlements.

Construction licenses are very expensive and difficult to obtain for Palestinians, notably in the Jerusalem area, in a bid by Israeli authorities to force Palestinians out and change the demographic balance of the city.

According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, almost 600 homes have been destroyed in the city over the last twelve years, leaving more than 2,000 Palestinians homeless in annexed East Jerusalem.

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