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Israel warned to halt house demolitions

The Swiss foreign ministry has called on Israel to stop the demolition of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem immediately.

The ministry said it was "deeply concerned" by the destruction of houses belonging to Palestinian families in so-called "administrative demolitions".

It commented there was no military need to justify the destruction of these houses.

In a statement on Thursday, the ministry said East Jerusalem was an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory.

It noted that according to international humanitarian law, Israel was under an obligation to ensure the protection of the civilian population.

However, it added that since 2000 more than 600 houses had been demolished in East Jerusalem and 1,600 in the West Bank as a whole.

The ministry said it regarded recent incidents as violations of international humanitarian law, which forbids an occupying power from destroying property in an occupied territory.

An Israeli embassy spokeswoman in Bern said the decision to remove the structures was "not an arbitrary decision," but was sanctioned by law.

"This demolition of houses was done under a court order," Shlomit Sufa commented.