Thursday, July 22, 2010

Israel: 74 homes demolished, 107 people, including 52 children displaced

Source: Amnesty International (AI)

Amnesty International has today called on the Israeli authorities to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes and other buildings in the West Bank, after a further 74 were destroyed in the Jordan Valley earlier this week.

The demolitions were carried out by the Israeli military in the villages of Hmayyir and 'Ein Ghazal in the area of al-Farisiya on Monday, displacing 107 people, including 52 children.

According to UN figures, at least 198 Palestinian structures in the West Bank have been demolished this year, resulting in the forced displacement of almost 300 Palestinians, half of them children, while 600 others have also been affected.

"These recent demolitions intensify concerns that this is part of a government strategy to remove the Palestinian population from the parts of the West Bank known as Area C, over which Israel has complete control in terms of planning and construction," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Among the property destroyed by the Israeli military on Monday were residential tents, separate kitchens and washrooms, agricultural buildings, and animal pens.

The army also damaged water tanks, wheat for human consumption and animal fodder.

The demolition came three weeks after the military handed out eviction orders in the village. Residents were told they had 24 hours to leave the area.

Unlike many other areas of the Jordan Valley, the communities of Hmayyir and 'Ein Ghazal had not experienced demolitions in the past.

According to Palestinian and Israeli media reports the Israeli military authority said the evictions were ordered because the homes are in a "closed military zone".

Most of the Jordan Valley area of the occupied West Bank has been declared a "closed military zone" by the Israeli army or has been taken over by some 36 Israeli settlements.

In a "closed military zone" Palestinians are forbidden from carrying out building construction and development.

On 24 June, the Israeli military also served eviction notices on two families - 15 people including five children - in the village of 'Ein al-Hilwe in the northern Jordan Valley and on a building for housing livestock in the nearby village of 'Ein al-Beida. Both villages are in Area C.

The buildings have not yet been demolished.

On 15 July, two buildings situated in a part of Area C southwest of Hebron in the West Bank were destroyed.

According to a report in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz on 19 July, the Israeli military authorities in the West Bank are acting on government orders to intensify its enforcement against what they deem to be "illegal" building in Area C.

Under the Oslo Accords, the Israeli authorities retain both civil and military control over areas designated as Area C, which make up more than 60 per cent of the West Bank.

The estimated 150,000 Palestinians living there face severe restrictions on building and also on their freedom of movement.

There are no Palestinian representatives on the planning institutions for Area C and, moreover, Palestinian residents in these areas have only very limited ability to submit objections to eviction and demolition.

"The current system whereby the Israeli military has sole responsibility for what Palestinians can or cannot build in the majority of the occupied West Bank is unacceptable," said Philip Luther. "Planning and building decisions should lie with the local Palestinian communities."