TANA, West Bank, Jan 10 (Hasan Titi/Reuters) - Israeli forces on Sunday knocked down shelters that were home to about 150 Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinian officials said.
A spokesman for the Israeli authorities in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since a 1967 war, said 14 illegally constructed structures were removed. They had been built on a military training ground, endangering the lives of those present, Lee Hiromoto, the spokesman, said.
Atef Hanini, a local Palestinian official, disputed the Israeli justification and said the Palestinian farming community had lived in the area of Tana, east of Nablus, for decades.
A mechanical digger ploughed through what remained of one of the shelters and a Palestinian woman remonstrated with Israeli soldiers at the scene. The structures included homes, stables and a school.
Hanini said the residents had defied Israeli instructions to demolish the structures themselves. Hiromoto said numerous warnings and evacuation orders had been issued.
Under interim peace agreements with the Palestinians, Israel exercises full military and civil control over some 60 percent of the West Bank, a zone known as Area C.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a December report that Israel's restrictive planning regime in Area C meant tens of thousands of Palestinians were left with no choice other than to build without authorisation, risking the demolition of their homes.
The UN body said it recorded the demolition of 180 Palestinian-owned Area C structures in 2009. The demolitions displaced 319 Palestinians, including 167 children.
The Palestinians want the West Bank and Gaza Strip to form an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. (Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Tom Perry in Ramallah; Editing by Janet Lawrence)