The United Nations has accused Israel of illegally demolishing the homes of 77 Palestinians, mostly children, this week in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"In the past three days, 77 Palestinians, over half of them children, have been made homeless," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement issued on Friday evening.

"Some of the demolished structures were provided by the international community to support vulnerable families. Demolitions that result in forced evictions and displacement run counter to Israel's obligations under international law and create unnecessary suffering and tension. They must stop immediately," said OCHA.

The demolitions took place in East Jerusalem and the districts of Ramallah, Jericho and Hebron.

OCHA said that during 2014 Israel carried out a record number of demolitions in East Jerusalem and a zone of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control known as Area C.

"In 2014, according to OCHA figures, the Israeli authorities destroyed 590 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and East Jerusalem, displacing 1,177 people - the highest level of displacement in the West Bank since OCHA began systematically monitoring the issue in 2008."

Israel says such demolitions are carried out because the structures have been built without the required construction permits. But Palestinians and rights groups say such authorisation is routinely denied, forcing unlicensed building.

"The planning policies applied by Israel in Area C and East Jerusalem discriminate against Palestinians, making it extremely difficult for them to obtain building permits," said OCHA.

"As a result, many Palestinians build without permits to meet their housing needs and risk having their structures demolished. Palestinians must have the opportunity to participate in a fair and equitable planning system that ensures their needs are met," it said.

Source: AFP