Demolition of illegal Palestinian structure
Demolition of illegal Palestinian structurePhoto: Civil Administration spokesperson

Israel is razing illegal, foreign-funded Palestinian buildings in Judea and Samaria at an unprecedented rate, according to a report, triggering anger from the UN's top official for "Palestine."

 According to UN figures seen by the AFP news agency, Israeli authorities have carried out more such demolitions so far this year than in all of 2015.

In total 121 structures funded partly or fully by international donors were demolished in Judea and Samaria January 1 and March 2, overtaking the 108 from all of 2015, according to the UN figures.  

The buildings include illegally-built houses, as well as temporary structures such as pens for animals and sheds, and a school, funded by the European Union, which was built illegally on Israeli land.

Robert Piper, humanitarian coordinator for the "Palestinian territories," called the demolitions "alarming."

"We have already surpassed the total number of humanitarian aid items destroyed or confiscated in all of 2015, in just the first 10 weeks of 2016," Piper told AFP.

"We will be protesting to the Israeli authorities of course, as are many in the diplomatic community."  

COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry body responsible for implementing government policies in Judea and Samaria, declined to comment on the number of demolitions, saying only that it takes "enforcement steps against any illegal construction" after issuing demolition orders.

MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), who heads a Knesset sub-committee on Judea and Samaria, said the rise in demolitions was likely in response to European Union labeling measures targeting Jewish-made goods from Judea and Samaria.

"I have no doubt that the government's firm stance is in part a result of the unilateral measures taken by Europe," said Yogev.

In November, new EU guidelines were issued forcing member countries to label imported produce from Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and parts of Jerusalem, sparking widespread condemnation including from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The UN's Piper said a number of factors may have contributed to the increase in demolitions, including the EU decision, growing domestic pressure on the government amid a wave of Arab terror attacks and to end the ongoing building freeze on Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

Criticism in Israel has mounted over the role played by foreign donors - in particular the European Union - in funding a massive wave of illegal Palestinian construction to create "facts on the ground" in Judea and Samaria, in violation of the Oslo Accords.

The EU has angrily protested a government push to demolish such illegal settlements - protests rejected by government MKs.