Israel destroys Palestinian community, again

A Palestinian boy stands in the ruins of the occupied West Bank community of Khirbet Humsa (Shadi Jarar'ah - APA Images)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  February 4, 2021

Israeli forces destroyed the Palestinian community of Khirbet Humsa in the occupied West Bank for the second time on Monday.

The latest attack on the community in the northern Jordan Valley is already Israel’s largest forced displacement of Palestinians this year.

Occupation forces dismantled and confiscated most of the homes and livestock shacks in the area.

They also seized 13 tents used by 11 families, as well as shelters for the families’ livestock, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

For the second time in three months, Israel destroyed the homes of more than 70 Palestinians, including some 40 children.

Last November, occupation forces razed Khirbet Humsa in what was the largest mass demolition in occupied territory in years.

Israeli forces demolished more structures than “in any other single demolition in the past decade,” the interim UN humanitarian coordinator Yvonne Helle said at the time.

On Monday morning, the Civil Administration – the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation – arrived in Khirbet Humsa and ordered its inhabitants to move to Ein Shibli, a town east of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

Occupation forces then dismantled and transferred their possessions to the nearby Hamra checkpoint in the northern Jordan Valley, community residents told B’Tselem.

They gave the residents an ultimatum: If they wanted their possessions back, they had to relocate to Ein Shibli.

The residents refused, so occupation authorities moved their belongings to warehouses.

Coercion

The Israeli military then tried to conceal its forcible transfer by suggesting that after “dialogue,” inhabitants had “voluntarily agreed” to leave the area.

But “dialogue” between an army of occupation and a defenseless herding community is impossible, much less a “voluntary” agreement.

With “demolition orders, bulldozers and weapons, consent is not on the cards,” B’Tselem said.

It is simply “an act of coercion and violence by Israel’s apartheid regime, which advances the principle of Jewish supremacy by geographically and demographically engineering space,” the human rights group added.

By Wednesday evening, Israel had declared the area a “closed military zone” and detained Palestinian activists who tried to enter it, according to Tel Aviv daily Haaretz.

Israeli forces arrived in the community again on Wednesday night and destroyed structures residents had rebuilt:

Israel designates certain West Bank areas as “firing zones” and “military zones” as a pretext to forcibly displace indigenous Palestinian communities or prevent them from accessing the land.

“Unusually broad measures”

B’Tselem said the attack on the Khirbet Humsa community is one of two “unusually broad measures” Israel has taken in the past week with one ultimate goal: “to forcibly transfer Palestinian communities in order to take over their land.”

The other was in a collection of rural hamlets known as Masafer Yatta in the southern West Bank.

On 2 February, for the first time in seven years, Israel conducted a large military exercise lasting two to three days in the area.

Israel designated some 7,500 acres in the Masafer Yatta region as a military firing zone in the 1980s, according to Haaretz.

The Mount Hebron Regional Council – which governs Jewish-only colonies in the area – congratulated and welcomed the “hundreds” of soldiers involved in the military exercise.

The council minced no words about the true purpose of such exercises: to intimidate and ultimately expel Palestinians.

It is “one of the ways to increase governance and to control open space and the imposition of law and order,” the council stated.

Haaretz reported that contrary to promises made to local residents, the army drove on farmland and damaged crops, and even came close to a medical clinic, a school and a mosque, causing damage to the street.

Since the beginning of the year, Israel has demolished more than 100 Palestinian structures, displacing more than 120 people – half of them children, according to UN documentation.

While Israel continues its destruction of Palestinian homes and communities, its official propaganda apparatus aims to portray it as a source of shelter and comfort for those without homes elsewhere.

The day before the latest assault on Khirbet Humsa, for instance, Israel bragged about building 39 homes for victims of a volcano eruption in Guatemala.

The transparently political and propagandistic nature of the project was underscored by the naming of the road where the houses were built as “Jerusalem Capital of Israel Street.”

Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada