Israeli demolitions in 2021 have soared, leaving hundreds of Palestinian families homeless, further exposing many to risks associated with COVID-19. (Sliman Khader/FLASH90)
So far in 2021, the Israeli targeting of EU-funded aid structures to the Palestinians tripled compared with the monthly average in 2020 and Israeli settlers damaged and stole donor-funded aid, said the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
In a report entitled “West Bank demolitions and displacement | February 2021”, OCHA said the Israeli authorities demolished, forced people to demolish, or seized 153 Palestinian-owned structures across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem: this is the fourth highest such figure recorded in a single month since OCHA began systematically documenting this practice in 2009, surpassed only by November 2020 (178), February (237) and March 2016 (179).
This month’s incidents resulted in the displacement of 305 people, including 172 children, and affected the livelihoods or access to services of 435 others. With the exception of two structures in Tura al Gharbiya in the Jenin district, demolished or damaged on punitive grounds, all the structures targeted were located in Area C of the occupied West Bank or in occupied East Jerusalem and were demolished due to a lack of building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
So far in 2021, the monthly average of structures targeted (117) represents a 65 per cent increase compared with the monthly average in 2020 (71).
On five separate occasions in February, the herding community of Humsa – Al Bqai’a in the northern Jordan Valley witnessed the confiscation and demolition of 82 structures by the Israeli authorities. Nearly 80 percent of the targeted structures (65) were provided as humanitarian aid and included homes, WASH and livelihood structures, at a value of at least 43,000 Euros. As a result of these five incidents, some 60 people, including 35 children were displaced.
In a statement issued on 24 February, following a visit to Humsa – Al Bqai’a, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the oPt, Lynn Hastings, called on the Israeli authorities to "immediately halt all further demolitions of Palestinian homes and possessions, allow the humanitarian community to provide shelter, food and water to this most vulnerable group and these people to remain in their homes."
So far in 2021, over 50 percent of all targeted structures have been located in Bedouin and herding communities in Area C, up from 31 percent in 2020. These communities are some of the most vulnerable in the West Bank, with limited access to education and health services, and to water, sanitation, and electricity infrastructure.
Nearly 90 percent of all structures targeted (demolished or seized) in February were seized without prior warning in Area C. This is a significant increase compared with 30 percent in 2020, 11 percent in 2017 and eight percent in 2016. Seizure procedures do not oblige the authorities to provide prior notice, thus preventing affected people from objecting in advance and have been characterized by the Head of the Supervision Unit within the ICA as "a strategic tool".
So far in 2021, a total of 93 structures provided as humanitarian aid have been demolished or seized by the Israeli authorities, compared with 157 structures in all of 2020.
Additionally, in Bruqin in the Salfit district, Israeli settlers destroyed, uprooted, or stole donor-funded saplings and infrastructure materials for a value of 2,300 euros. A family of seven was affected by the incident.
Fifteen structures were demolished in East Jerusalem: seven were demolished by the West Jerusalem Israeli municipality and seven by the owners themselves, following the issuance of a demolition order.
The largest incident took place in al-Isawiyya on 22 February, where the Jerusalem Municipality accompanied by Israeli forces demolished a residential building comprising four apartments, displacing 19 people, including 10 children. The affected families had been paying fines since 2017 for building without a permit and received a final demolition order in July 2020 and a verbal warning the day before the demolition. Clashes erupted during the demolition incident, during which a Palestinian man was injured with a rubber bullet.
On 10 February, the Israeli authorities punitively demolished a home in the village of Tura al Gharbiya in Jenin, in Area B, belonging to a Palestinian man indicted for killing an Israeli settler on 20 December 2020. A family of seven, including four children, was displaced, in addition to a family of four displaced due to collateral damage caused by the demolition.