Israeli demolitions are a flagrant violation of international law and part of a systematic pattern to forcibly displace Palestinians in the occupied territories. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Israel targeted in October 47 Palestinian-owned structures, displacing 41 people and otherwise affecting the livelihoods or access to services of over 1,200 others, a UN body has reported.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory said in its “West Bank Demolitions and Displacement” monthly report covering October that All structures, except for one sealed on punitive grounds were targeted due to a lack of building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
On November 3, the Israeli authorities’ demolished 83 Palestinian structures in the Bedouin community of Humsa al-Bqai’a, in the northern Jordan Valley, displacing 73 people, including 41 children, which the United Nations considered as the largest number of people displaced in a single incident since March 2016.
Of the structures targeted in October, 12 had been provided as humanitarian aid, for a total cost of nearly 25,000 Euros. A donor-funded water cistern serving a school in Ramallah received a demolition order.
Three of this month’s incidents occurred in the Masafer Yatta area of Hebron (AlKhalil), which is declared closed for Israeli military training (‘Firing Zone 918’). The Israeli authorities have been seeking for years to evict the 1,400 Palestinians residing in 14 herding communities in this area, on the grounds that they are residing illegally in a closed military area, said OCHA.
In one of these incidents, on 28 October, the Israeli authorities removed part of a donor-funded network supplying water to eight communities in Massafer Yatta. The demolition resulted in a complete disruption of water distribution to over 1,000 people, including 630 children. As a result, these communities have had to rely exclusively on the delivery of tankered water, at a cost of about 40 Israeli shekels (10 euros) per cubic meter compared to 6 shekels (1.5 euros) they paid for the piped water.
The continuous targeting of water and sanitation structures amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remains of serious concern, with the vulnerability of affected people further compounded by the onset of winter, said OCHA.
Fourteen of the structures targeted in October were dismantled and seized without prior notice, based on military regulations that allow for the summary requisition of structures defined by an Israeli Civil Administrator (ICA) inspector as “movable.”
Another 11 structures, including one donor-funded residential shelter, were demolished on the basis of Military Order 1797, which allows for the removal of unlicensed structures deemed as “new”, as soon as 96 hours of the issuance of a “removal order” (in practice, implementation has taken around two weeks).
Both practices - requisitions without notice and expedited demolitions - have been on the rise since the beginning of 2020, accounting for approximately 40 percent of all targeted structures. They leave people with little or no possibility to object to the targeting of their properties and, in some cases, their displacement, before any administrative or judicial instance.
Four uninhabited structures were demolished in East Jerusalem, two by the authorities and two by the owners, following the issuance of demolition orders. As of end-October, about half of the 145 structures demolished in East Jerusalem in 2020 were demolished by their owners, to reduce the fines and expenses imposed by the municipality.
On 21 October, the Israeli authorities punitively sealed part of a home in Area A of Ya’bad village in the Jenin district in the north of the West Bank, belonging to a Palestinian indicted for the killing of a soldier during a search-and-arrest operation in May. A family of 10, including seven children, was displaced as a result.
So far in 2020, six homes have been demolished or sealed on punitive grounds, a practice that human rights officials have declared collective punishment, which is absolutely prohibited under international law.