Israel is razing Palestinian homes and other buildings constructed with international aid at an "alarming" rate, the UN said Tuesday, with more demolitions so far this year than in all of 2015.
In total, 121 structures funded partly or fully by international donors, which Israel says were built illegally, were demolished in the West Bank between January 1 and March 2, overtaking the 108 from all of 2015, according to UN figures seen by AFP.
The projects include homes for Palestinians and at least one school, as well as temporary structures such as pens for animals and sheds.
COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry body responsible for implementing government policies in the Palestinian territories, declined to comment on the number of demolitions, saying only that it takes "enforcement steps against any illegal construction" after issuing demolition orders.
EU labelling fight
Moti Yogev, an MK from the far-right Bayit Yehudi party who heads an Knesset sub-committee on the West Bank, said the rise in demolitions was likely in response to European Union measures on imports of goods from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
"I have no doubt that the government's firm stance is in part a result of the unilateral measures taken by Europe," Yogev told AFP.
In November, new EU guidelines were issued forcing member countries to label imported produce from the settlements, sparking condemnation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The UN's Piper said a number of factors may have contributed to the increase in demolitions, including the EU decision, and growing domestic pressure on the government amid a wave of Palestinian attacks.
Eitan Dangot, a former head of COGAT, told AFP that such a spike would ultimately be Netanyahu's decision. "In the end it is a policy of the prime minister and the government."
He said that many of the demolitions involve temporary structures. "It is things that are very light that are destroyed," he said.
The IDF says the homes have been built without permission from Israeli authorities.
Yogev said the EU was spending millions of euros per year on what he called "illegal construction".
"I call it construction terror," he said.