Israeli authorities have demolished at least 140 Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem this year. (Photo: AP)
Following a successful legal action demanding a halt on Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem during the COVID-19 crisis, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent another urgent letter on 5 October to the commander of the Israeli military’s Civil Administration demanding he immediately halts the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank as residents contend with another spike in the COVID-19 pandemic, reported Wafa news agency.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the period from March to September 2020 saw the demolition or confiscation of 370 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank. This marked the highest average monthly demolition rate in four years.
Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara noted in the urgent letter that Israeli demolitions during this period left 305 people homeless.
Jamie McGoldrick, deputy special coordinator for the Middle East peace process and UN resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, also warned that “the demolition of essential structures during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly worrying as it further compounds the overall situation in the West Bank.”
In addition to homes, Israeli demolitions also targeted Palestinian properties including water, hygiene and sanitation assets, and structures used for agriculture, undermining the access of many to livelihoods and services. Moreover, 50 of the structures had been given to Palestinians as humanitarian aid, and their destruction hit the most vulnerable of all, undermining essential emergency operations.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the additional restrictions placed on Palestinian residents of the West Bank also makes it significantly more difficult – both practically and economically – for those whose homes have been demolished to secure legal defense.
Attorney Suhad Bishara, director of Adalah’s Land and Planning Rights Unit, wrote in the urgent letter: “In the current global reality brimming with fear and near-constant uncertainty, it is most unfortunate that Israel finds it appropriate to add to people's pain and suffering by illegally demolishing their homes, livelihoods, and essential infrastructures. Israel’s demolitions amplify the vulnerability of Palestinians seeking to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic while under occupation. We demand Israel immediately halt its demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank.”
Earlier, and following Adalah’s legal action against East Jerusalem home demolitions, Israel agreed on 1 October to freeze demolitions nationwide.
According to a report by OCHA, Israel demolished 31 buildings in East Jerusalem in July and August, leaving about 96 people homeless.
As of August, and since the beginning of 2020, Israel has demolished 112 Palestinian buildings and 261 people were left homeless as a result, including countless children. An additional 467 Palestinian residents were harmed as a result of partial demolitions of structures by Israeli authorities.