JERICHO- Israeli bulldozers demolished four homes on Tuesday in an area of the Jordan Valley just north of Jericho that is supposed to be under full Palestinian control, the family and the city's Palestinian governor said.
The Israeli defence ministry confirmed the demolitions in Al-Nuweima but did not specify whether the houses lay in so-called Area A of the occupied West Bank, lands on which the Palestinians are supposed to enjoy full civil and security control.
Mohammed al-Zaid, 66, whose sons own the bulldozed properties, told AFP the homes were located in a section of Area A land just north of Jericho, one of the few parts of the Jordan Valley where Palestinians can build.
He said that nonetheless the Israelis had been informed of the plans for their construction and had given their consent.
"My sons and I built in this area with the consent of the Israelis through plans presented to them by the Palestinian liaison," he said. "I do not know why the occupation's bulldozers demolished the houses, where more than 40 people live - my sons and grandchildren."
Jericho governor Majid al-Feytani confirmed the houses were located in Area A and strongly condemned their demolition.
"This is a classified as Area A and we are alarmed by and strongly condemn the measures taken by the occupation authorities," he told AFP. The family said each house had three rooms and there was also a sheep pen at the site.
A statement from COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry unit responsible for building issues in most of the West Bank, confirmed the demolitions, saying the structures were illegally built, without commenting on claims they were located in Area A.
Meanwhile, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Tuesday the "ball is in Israel's court" concerning a resumption of peace talks that the US is pushing for, ahead of a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry.
"Kerry is exerting strenuous efforts... to come to a solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Abbas told a news conference in Ramallah. "I believe the ball is now in Israel's court. The Palestinian demands are clear, and the Israelis know them as do the Americans, so Israel must now accept them in order to begin negotiations," said Abbas.

President Abbas also said on Tuesday that incoming Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah, who has been tasked with forming a new government, is likely to present his cabinet line-up "in the coming few days."
"I asked him to form a new government and in the coming few days, he will finish his consultations and declare a new government," Abbas told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, just two days after he tasked the respected academic with piecing together a new cabinet.
The 54-year-old, who heads the largest university in the West Bank but has little political experience, was tapped by Abbas as the new prime minister late on Sunday in a move hailed by Washington.
Israel has reacted cautiously although pundits described him as a moderate and a pragmatist vis-a-vis the Jewish state.
The European Union also welcomed the nomination, with foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton saying Hamdallah was taking over at an important moment for the Palestinians.
"Mr. Hamdallah has been appointed prime minister at a time when there is a real opportunity for a renewed peace process, but also at a time of difficult choices and challenges for Palestine," she said in a statement.
"I look forward to working closely with Dr. Hamdallah and to supporting the continuing work to build the institutions of a future sovereign and independent Palestinian state based on respect for democracy and human rights and living in peace and security with its neighbours."
Ashton also praised former premier Salam Fayyad, hailing his "consistent and successful work to advance the Palestinian Authority's state-building efforts."
Fayyad resigned in mid April after months of difficult relations with Abbas, and his term as caretaker prime minister came to an end on Sunday night.
Hamdallah has said his new cabinet, which would be very similar to the outgoing line-up, would be an interim step on the road to a unity government comprising Abbas's Fatah faction and the rival Hamas movement as laid out in an as-yet unfulfilled unity agreement signed in 2011.
Speaking to Voice of Palestine radio on Tuesday, Fatah Central Committee member Mahmud Alul said Hamdallah would preside over "a temporary government until a national unity government is formed."
He said the new government was likely to be announced within two days. "Hopefully on Thursday evening," he told the station.