[creeping annexation] Israel ‘demolished 89 Palestinian-owned structures in two weeks’, says UN

Middle East Monitor  /  February 24, 2021

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Palestinian Territories (OCHA) has reported that the Israeli occupation authorities demolished 89 Palestinian-owned structures in the past two weeks. The pretext was the lack of building permits.

At least 146 people have been displaced by the demolitions, including 83 children. Around 330 others are affected by the destruction of the buildings.

The comprehensive OCHA report said that on 3 and 8 February the Israeli authorities demolished 37 buildings, most of which were in the occupied Jordan Valley community of Humsa al-Baqai’a, displacing 60 people, including 35 children. This community, the UN pointed out, is in an area now designated for Israeli military training and has witnessed mass demolitions over the past few months. On 5 February, the UN warned that the pressure on residents “entails a real risk of forcible transfer.”

In southern Hebron, meanwhile, the UN noted that the Israeli occupation authorities have confiscated seven structures, including portable toilets, in the communities of Al-Rakayz, Umm al-Khair and Khirbet al-Tawameen. This has affected 80 people and damaged their livelihoods. In occupied East Jerusalem, four of the structures were demolished by the owners themselves in order to avoid fines imposed by the Israelis.

Moreover, in at least one instance, a home was demolished in the village of Tura al-Gharbiya for punitive reasons, leading to the displacement of 11 people, including four children. The house belongs to the family of a Palestinian man accused of killing an Israeli woman in December. Such collective punishment is illegal under international law. The UN said that seven buildings were demolished by Israel last year for similar punitive reasons.

The report also provided details of other violations aimed at driving Palestinians from their land. For example, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, the Israeli authorities uprooted 1,000 seedlings near the city of Tubas. The seedlings were planted after the uprooting of thousands of trees during the past month in the same area. Those responsible are alleged to have been illegal Israeli settlers, who wounded four Palestinians, including a child, and vandalised properties over the past two weeks in several areas of the occupied West Bank. They also destroyed a surveillance camera in the Romanian Orthodox Church in East Jerusalem.

On 5 February, said the UN, an Israeli settler shot and killed a 34-year-old Palestinian near a settlement outpost established recently near the village of Ras Karkar in the Ramallah district. Israeli military sources said that the victim tried to enter a house in the settlement outpost, while clashes broke out later in the village and resulted in the wounding of a Palestinian and an Israeli soldier. Another Palestinian citizen, aged 25, was killed in Nuba, Hebron, due to unexploded ordnance found near his home.

More than 70 Palestinians and four Israeli soldiers were wounded during clashes across the West Bank, while 30 of the demonstrators received treatment for inhaling tear gas fired by the occupation soldiers when they protested against the establishment of three illegal settlement outposts. Such outposts are even illegal under Israeli law. The occupation forces also carried out 186 search and arrest operations targeting 172 Palestinians throughout the West Bank. The governorates of Jerusalem, Ramallah and Hebron are where the highest number of these operations took place, with 28 operations on average for each.

During one incident in Hebron, the Israeli forces stormed into the municipality building and detained employees who were working on night shift. Furniture and doors were reportedly broken.

In Gaza, Israeli forces fired warning shots on at least 28 occasions near the border fence or towards fishermen off the coast, under the pretext of imposing restrictions on access. On three other occasions, Israeli soldiers bulldozed land near the fence.