Friday, November 26, 2010

OPT: Israel condemned over Bedouin village demolition

Source: Amnesty International (AI)

Amnesty International has condemned the Israeli authorities following the demolition of a Bedouin village in southern Israel for the seventh time since July.

Makeshift homes that residents of al-'Araqib village in the Negev had erected after a previous demolition last month were bulldozed on 22 November by the Israel Lands Administration. The residents, all Israeli citizens, were again evicted by riot police.

"We condemn these repeated demolitions that aim to forcibly evict the residents of al-'Araqib from the land they have on lived for generations," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"The fact that the village has been demolished seven times in four months shows that this is not some administrative mistake but a conscious Israeli government policy of dispossession."

The village of al-'Araqib is one of more than 40 Palestinian villages in Israel not recognized by the Israeli authorities, despite the residents' Israeli citizenship and their long-established claims to their lands.

Residents of these "unrecognized" villages, many of which are located in Israel's Negev desert, lack security of tenure and services including water and electricity.

At least 50 of the 250 residents of al-'Araqib village are again living in the ruins of their homes, attempting to rebuild them. Others are camping in tents in the village cemetery.

As in previous demolitions, no eviction or demolition order was presented to the inhabitants. Israeli authorities have previously detained residents and their supporters when they demanded to see a demolition order.

Israeli media reported in early 2010 that the government had decided to triple the demolition rate of Bedouin villages in the Negev. As the government does not recognize the villagers' land tenure, it maintains that their settlements are illegal.

Al-'Araqib village was first demolished by the authorities on 27 July 2010, and residents were evicted by a force of over 1,000 riot police officers. At least 46 homes were destroyed, thousands of olive trees and other crops uprooted, and possessions including electricity generators, vehicles and refrigerators confiscated.

Villagers refused to leave their land, and rebuilt makeshift shelters to live in. These were again demolished by government officials accompanied by riot police on 4 August, 10 August, 17 August at dawn during Ramadan while the villagers were fasting, on 12 September, 13 October, and again this week.

In addition to the demolitions in al-'Araqib, the Israeli authorities have demolished Palestinian homes this week in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

On 22 November, the Jerusalem municipality demolished a home in the al-Tur neighbourhood of East Jerusalem as well as nine structures used by Palestinian businesses in Issawiye and Hizma. On the same day the Israeli military demolished three buildings in Jiftlik and another in Qarawat Bani Hassan, both villages in the West Bank.

Today Israeli forces demolished seven structures in Khirbet Yasra, including two homes and a mosque, and another residential building in al-Rifa'iyya; both are villages in the West Bank.

Dozens of Palestinians have been made homeless as a result of these demolitions, while others have had their livelihoods devastated.

"The Israeli government must stop its policy of home demolitions both in communities inside Israel, such as al-'Araqib in the Negev, and also in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem," said Philip Luther.