Belgian minister slams 'Israel' over 'erasing Palestinian villages'
The Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation and Urban Policy says "entire [Palestinian] villages are being wiped off the map by the Israelis."
Caroline Gennez, the Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation and Urban Policy, accused this week the Israeli occupation of "erasing entire Palestinian villages from the map."
In an interview for the De Morgen newspaper, Gennez said, "Entire [Palestinian] villages are being wiped off the map by the Israelis."
"In the occupied Palestinian territories, the situation is no longer sustainable. Entire villages have been wiped off the map by Israelis. The periods of violent escalation are becoming shorter and more intense," she told the newspaper.
"As a result, the population has nowhere to turn. More Palestinians have been injured and killed due to violence since the beginning of this year compared to all of 2022," the Belgian Minister pointed out, deeming the situation as "unsustainable".
Gennez highlighted that "the periods of escalating violence are shorter than before, but more frequent and more intense. As a result, the population no longer has room to catch its breath."
Following the Minister's remarks, the Israeli occupation Foreign Ministry summoned Belgium's Ambassador to "Israel", Jean-Luc Dodson.
The occupation's Ambassador to Belgium, Idit Rosenzweig-Abu, also handed the Belgian Foreign Ministry and Gennez a strongly-worded protest letter.
Rosenzweig-Abu, who described Gennez's statements as "libelous and defamatory," wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter) that "the Belgian ambassador in Israel was summoned to the MFA for reprimand and required to provide explanations."
In recent years, Israeli-Belgian relations have witnessed minor setbacks. In 2021, then-deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll refused to meet with Belgian officials, after Belgium's announcement that it would mark Israeli products coming from the occupied West Bank and tighten restrictions on products coming from illegal Israeli settlements.
It is noteworthy that under international law, all Israeli settlements are illegal, and the United Nations Security Council has condemned Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed in late February that Israeli-built settlements are "illegal" and they "must stop".
In mid-August, a UN report revealed that 56 Palestinian-owned structures, including six homes, were either seized or demolished by the Israeli occupation in occupied Al-Quds and Area C of the occupied West Bank in just two weeks.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the demolitions and seizures took place under the pretext of not possessing construction permits, noting that they are almost impossible to obtain.
The UN body stated that the Israeli demolitions have resulted in the expulsion of over 20 Palestinians, most of them children, and affected the livelihoods of some 3,500 others.
The report highlighted that all of the demolished structures in the eastern part of occupied Al-Quds "were destroyed by their owners to avoid the payment of fines to the Israeli authorities."
Andrea De Domenico, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, acknowledged that "the displacement of Palestinians amid increasing settler violence is of a magnitude that we have not previously documented."
According to the office, Israeli settler attacks against Palestinian territory in the past year and a half forcibly expelled nearly 500 Palestinians, including 261 children.
In a similar report, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) stated that illegal Israeli settlers continue to systematically occupy Palestinian lands and forcibly expel hundreds of Palestinians from their homes, causing some Palestinian communities to vanish off the map.
Human Rights Watch said that the Israeli occupation government's new entry restrictions for foreigners in the occupied #WestBank facilitate further isolation of #Palestinians from global society. pic.twitter.com/vgQJVEz2pW— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) February 12, 2023
"There are entire Palestinian communities being wiped off the map, a shameful legacy of unrelenting violence, intimidation and harassment perpetrated by Israeli settlers and, in some cases, encouraged by Israeli authorities," Ana Povrzenic, the NRC’s country director for Palestine, expressed.
Povrzenic further added that "the rapid establishment of settlement outposts and takeover of Palestinian land is choking Palestinian communities, destroying their livelihoods, and putting Palestinian lives at risk. Palestinians have no choice but to flee, leaving behind their homes, schools, and jobs."
According to the NRC, approximately 60 Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank are at increased risk of forcible displacement as a result of Israeli violence.
"Without holding Israel accountable, more and more Palestinian communities will be forcibly transferred," an NRC official warned.