Israeli bulldozers have demolished a mosque and several homes in a Palestinian village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, leaving up to 30 people homeless on the deadline of the peace talks between Palestine and Israel.
Eighteen Israeli military jeeps and two bulldozers stormed the village of Kherbt al-Taweel near Nablus, to the north of the West Bank early on Tuesday morning and declared the village a closed military zone, Ghassan Douglas, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of monitoring settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told the Anadolu Agency (AA).
He added that before demolishing the buildings “the forces prevented residents from entering or leaving the village and students from going to their school.”
"I went to make my dawn prayers at the mosque and found the army surrounding it," resident Abdel Fattah Maarouf, 63, told Reuters, "Then they tore it down. They want this area so they can build settlements on it."
A Reuters correspondent said several hundred soldiers were
deployed in Khirbet al-Taweel around daybreak.
Other buildings that were wiped out by Israeli troops included three family houses, animal shelters and a communal well.
According to another village resident Anwar Sidki whose home was destroyed, the Israelis did not give him any prior warning.
"They just demolished the house," he told AA."I have five children and a wife. I have to either re-build the house, or they will remain in the streets."
Meanwhile, the Israeli troops left the village, although they left security at its entrances.
According to Douglas, the Israelis destroyed the mosque and the houses “under the pretext of being built without a permit."
“Israel has long sought to control the village because of its strategic location, which overlooks the Jordan Valley," added Jawdat Bani Jabr, head of the village council.
A top Palestinian official, Yasser Abed Rabbo told local radio that "unless acts like this cease completely," Palestine won’t return to peace talks with Israel. The April-29 deadline has now been missed.
According to Douglas, Israeli army forces are targeting the village to displace its residents and annex its land to attach it to nearby settlements, or use them for army training.
Israeli settlements in the West Bank have long been a stumbling block in peace negotiations, as Tel Aviv has refused to freeze the construction of new settlements.
On Tuesday, Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now reported that Israeli authorities approved about 14,000 settlements during the nine-months peace talks with Palestine.
"This is an unprecedented number representing an average of 50 housing units per day or 1,540 per month," Peace Now added.
Relations between Israel and Palestine have worsened over the past month, culminating in the imposition of sanctions on Palestine by Israel, which included freezing the transfer of taxes. Israel monthly collects some $110 million in taxes on goods bound for the Palestinian territory, which roughly amounts to around two-thirds of the income received by the Palestinian Authority.
On April 23, Israel suspended peace talks with Palestine over the unity deal signed in Gaza between the Hamas group (considered terrorist in Israel) and Abbas's Fatah faction.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said that Palestine must choose either peace with Israel or an alliance with Hamas, but it cannot have both.