JERUSALEM Israel has stepped up its demolitions of Palestinian property in occupied land this year, razing double the number of homes and water wells from 2010, human rights groups said on Tuesday.
The statement endorsed by 20 organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch further said Jewish settler violence against Palestinians had risen in 2011 and that Israel had sped up its expansion of settler enclaves.
They urged members of the Middle East peacemaking "Quartet" -- the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- to put pressure on Israel to "reverse its settlement policies and freeze all demolitions that violate international law."
Quartet representatives were expected in the region again on Wednesday for yet another effort to revive peace talks frozen since last year over settlement construction.
The statement, citing U.N. figures, said Israel had destroyed more than 500 Palestinian homes, wells and other structures in 2011, displacing more than 1,000 people, the greatest number in a single year since 2005.
Settler assaults on Palestinians, including deliberate damage to some privately owned 10,000 olive trees, have also risen to their worst level since 2005, with a 50 percent increase over 2010, and more than a 160 percent increase over 2009, the U.N. figures show.
The statement said that settler "perpetrators act with virtual impunity," with more than 90 percent of complaints filed with police shut without indictment between 2005 and 2010.
Israel has approved plans to build 4,000 more settlement homes in the past year for East Jerusalem, the greatest number since 2006, the statement added, quoting figures supplied by the Israeli watchdog group Peace Now.
Guy Inbar, a spokesman for the Israel's Defence Ministry unit coordinating policy for the West Bank, dismissed the report as "one-sided and biased."
In a written statement, Inbar said Israel would continue to "professionally and transparently" enforce laws regarding illegal construction by both Israelis and Palestinians.
In a move not recognized abroad, Israel annexed East Jerusalem as part of its capital after capturing it along with the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state which they seek to establish in the West Bank.
(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan)