Israeli Troops Raze Bethlehem Homes, Electricity Pylons

Israeli forces on Tuesday razed four homes and dozens of electricity pylons near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Palestinian witnesses and an Agence France Presse correspondent said.

"At 4:00 am (0100 GMT) army tractors demolished four homes and 52 electricity pylons in the al-Makhrureh area of Beit Jalla," Mazen al-Azzeh, coordinator of the Popular Campaign to Fight Settlements in Bethlehem, told AFP.

"They want to confiscate the land for settler purposes, to connect the settlement of Kfar Etzion and Har Gilo," he said referring to two settlements which lie 10 kilometers (six miles) apart.

The demolition left residents in the area without electricity, the AFP correspondent said.

"This is a mostly a Christian area," Azzeh said.

"As the world celebrates Easter, this is the Israeli government's gift to the Palestinian Christian community," he charged.

A spokesman for the civil administration, the military unity which is responsible for all building issues in Area C, the section of the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control, said he was unaware of the demolitions.

Israel regularly demolishes homes in area C, which covers some 60 percent of the West Bank, as well as in annexed Arab east Jerusalem on grounds that they have been built without the required permits.

The Palestinians say it is virtually impossible for them to get permission to build in such areas.

Rights groups and international organizations including the United Nations, have called on Israel to end such demolitions, saying they cause "extensive human suffering."

Source: Agence France Presse

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