File photo of East Jerusalem demolition (Anadolu Agency)
In August, the Israeli authorities demolished, forced people to demolish, or seized 118 Palestinian-owned structures across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, resulting in the displacement of 191 people, including 116 children, according to a UN report.
The monthly report on Israeli demolitions and displacement published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory indicates that the Israeli demolitions in August affected the livelihoods, or access to services, of nearly 1,400 Palestinians.
All the structures were targeted due to the lack of building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain in Area C and East Jerusalem.
The number of structures demolished or seized in August declined by seven per cent compared with July, but was still the third-highest monthly total in 2021. Until end-August, 2021 has recorded an increase of 38 per cent in the number of demolitions and confiscations compared with the equivalent period in 2020; the number of donor-funded assets demolished or confiscated more than doubled from 72 to 184.
In 2021, 311 structures, or 57 per cent of all structures targeted in Area C, have been seized without, or with very short, prior notice, utilizing various military orders, effectively preventing the affected people from objecting in advance.
Twenty-three (23) of the demolished or seized structures in August had been provided as humanitarian aid. Four other EU-funded residential structures, at a value of about 8,000 Euros, received stop-work orders.
About 80 per cent of the people displaced were in the Jordan Valley, including 75 in Ibziq, Al Mu’arrajat and Humsa-Al Farsheh herding communities. The levelling of segments of agricultural roads in Khirbet ‘Atuf community, also in the Jordan Valley, and Battir village in Bethlehem rendered hundreds of dunums of land largely inaccessible, undermining the livelihoods of over 800 people, including farmers and their families. Also in Area C, 12 structures were demolished on the basis of Military Order 1797, which provides only a 96-hour notice and very limited grounds for legally challenging a demolition.
In East Jerusalem, nearly 100 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in August, recording the highest number of displacement in one month in East Jerusalem this year. Of the 53 homes demolished since the beginning of the year, 38 were demolished by their owners to avoid financial penalties and/or imprisonment.
In one such incident, a one-story building was demolished by its owners, displacing four families (15 people), in the Shu’fat neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. This followed a final decision by the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ), which ruled that Israeli settlers owned the land, and giving the families 20 days to leave. The Palestinian owners say they bought the land in 1952.
On 2 August, the HCJ considered an appeal request by four of the families at risk of forced eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. The judges proposed a settlement that included a protected tenancy arrangement for family members. The hearing was adjourned without a decision concluded and with no date to reconvene. On 15 August, the court postponed the eviction of several other Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah, pending a decision on their request to appeal the decision to evict them.
On 9 August, the Israeli Local Affairs Court granted another extension until 10 February 2022 regarding 52 demolition cases in the Al Bustan area of Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem that have a pending planning process with the Jerusalem Municipality. These developments notwithstanding, 15 homes in Al Bustan are still at high risk of demolition.
In the part of Al Walaja village (Bethlehem), which falls under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Municipality, two houses were demolished in August, raising concerns over possible imminent mass demolitions in the area. According to an OCHA field assessment conducted in August in this part of the community, 36 inhabited residential structures where 47 families reside, and nine other uninhabited structures, have pending demolition orders, mostly issued after 2015. A legal injunction has been issued which prohibits the demolition of 34 of the structures during this process, which is scheduled to be reviewed by the Israeli Supreme Court in October 2021.