Palestinian man outside of his demolished home. Credit: B'Tselem
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights, B’Tselem, has released a report showing that in 2019, the Israeli authorities demolished more Palestinian homes than any other year in the past 15 years.
According to B’Tselem, “from 2004 to 2018, the Israeli authorities demolished 54 residential units [belonging to Palestinians] a year, on average. In 2019, the authorities demolished 140 units by the end of September.”
B’Tselem said that “from 2006 until October 31, 2019, Israel demolished at least 1,489 Palestinian residential units in the West Bank (not including east Jerusalem), causing 6,508 people – including at least 3,264 minors – to lose their homes.”
“In Palestinian communities unrecognized by the state of Israel, many which are facing the threat of expulsion, Israel repeatedly demolishes residents’ homes. From 2006 through October 31 2019, the homes of at least 1,048 people living in these communities - including 499 minors - were demolished more than once by Israel", said the group.
“In addition, from January 2016 through October 31 2019, the [Israeli army’s] Civil Administration demolished 756 non-residential structures (such as fences, cisterns, roads, storerooms, farming buildings, businesses and public buildings) in the West Bank (excluding east Jerusalem),” the report added.
In statistics figuring on B’Tselem’s website, the Israeli authorities knocked down 70 Palestinian housing units until 31 Oct.2019, leaving 197 people homeless, including 82 minors.
A lengthy report conducted by the United Nations and entitled “Under the rubble: House demolition and destruction of land and property”, said that “for decades Israel has pursued a policy of forced eviction and demolition of homes of Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the homes of Israeli Arabs in Israel.”
“In the past three and a half years the scale of the destruction carried out by the Israeli army in the Occupied Territories has reached an unprecedented level. The victims are often amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged in both Israeli and Palestinian society”, said the report.
It added that tens of thousands of men, women and children have been forcibly evicted from their homes and made homeless or have lost their source of livelihood. Thousands of other houses and properties have been damaged, many beyond repair.
In addition, tens of thousands of other homes are under threat of demolition, their occupants living in fear of forced eviction and homelessness.
The UN report also said that forced evictions and house demolitions are usually carried out without warning, often at night, and the occupants are given little or no time to leave their homes. Sometimes they are allowed a few minutes or half an hour, too little to salvage their belongings.
“Often the only warning is the rumbling of the Israeli army's bulldozers and tanks and the inhabitants barely have time to flee as the bulldozers begin to tear down the walls of their homes. Thousands of families have had their homes and possessions destroyed under the blades of the Israeli army's US-made Caterpillar bulldozers”, the UN report read.
The report said the destruction of Palestinian homes, agricultural land and other property in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, is inextricably linked with “Israel's long-standing policy of appropriating as much as possible of the land it occupies, notably by establishing Israeli settlements”.
The UN says it considers the establishment of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and of the human rights of the local Palestinian population.