Israel Demolishes Over 30 West Bank Structures in Two Days, Leaving Dozens Homeless

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A Bedouin family hang laundry outside their shack in the village of Anata. Dec. 12, 2005.Credit: AP

The IDF’s Civil Administration in the West Bank left 127 Palestinians homeless in the last two days as a result of the largest-scale demolitions of homes in nearly three years.

On Monday, the Civil Administration in the West Bank demolished 22 buildings, including huts used as dwellings and sheep pens, in four Bedouin communities near Ma’aleh Adumim. Seventy-nine people, including 49 children, were left without shelter, along with their flocks, in the harsh heat.

Tuesday, the Civil Administration demolished 17 structures in the village of Fasa’il (pop. 1,700) in the Jordan Valley. Part of the village is in Area B and the rest in Area C. Forty-eight people lived in the dwellings that were demolished, including 31 minors.

A Palestinian Bedouin man in front of his dwelling demolished by Israeli bulldozers in the village of Um Alkhier near Hebron, Oct. 27, 2014. Credit: Reuters

According to figures from the United Nations, Monday’s demolitions caused the largest number of West Bank Palestinians to lose their homes on the West Bank in a single day since October 31, 2012. The four communities where the demolitions took place are al-Saidi, near the town of al-Zaim, west of Ma’aleh Adumim; and three others to the north of Ma’aleh Adumim: Bir el-Maskub, Wadi Sneysel and Abu Falah, all in the area of Khan al-Ahmar. A total of 400 people live in these communities.

Attorney Shlomo Lecker, who is representing the families from Bir al-Maskub, said the demolitions were carried out even though objections to the demolition orders were submitted in May to Etti Sofer, coordinator of the Civil Administration’s oversight subcommittee.

Lecker said that in contrast to the usual procedures, he never received any response to these objections.

In response to a request from Haaretz, it turns out that the Civil Administration’s response to Lecker was sent to an incorrect phone number, and therefore never reached him.

The attorney had written that the demolition orders were issued seven years ago but were never implemented because the Civil Administration apparently understood that it could not destroy structures when there was no reasonable alternative for relocating the residents.

Lecker said he cannot recall an instance in which the authorities carried out demolition orders without responding to the objections and to a request for a postponement to allow for legal action on the matter.

Israel does not include the Bedouin communities in its master plans for Area C, the areas of the West Bank under full Israeli control, which is why Bedouin residents are forced to build huts and other temporary structures without permits from the Civil Administration. In recent years Israel has expedited its demolition activities, along with efforts to concentrate all Bedouin communities in permanent towns.

A plan to build a Bedouin town called Nueimah, north of Jericho, generated numerous objections from residents, who complained that the authorities were not consulting with them. As a result, in March, the coordinator of government activities in the territories and the head of the Civil Administration appointed Brig. Gen. (res.) Dov Tzedaka as their liaison to the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, regarding their planned evacuations from where they have lived for decades and resettlement in a permanent town. Tzedaka is a former head of the Civil Administration and a member of the Council for Peace and Security.

One of the persistent demands of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s subcommittee on settlement matters is to demolish all the Bedouin communities in Area C, in general, and near Ma’aleh Adumim in particular, to allow for expansion of Jewish settlements in that area. Some of the neighborhoods of Ma’aleh Adumim were built on sites where Bedouins from the Jahalin tribe lived for years, until they were evacuated in the 1990s.

The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said: “These are illegal structures that were built without permits in violation of the law, some of which have been built in recent years. The structures were demolished after the enforcement process was completed and the appropriate orders were issued. In addition, no request for building permits was submitted and the owners of the structures did not appear before the subcommittee for oversight to which they were invited. Attorney Lecker filed on May 17, 2015 an objection on the announcement of the intention to demolish the structures, which was recently delivered to the owners of the structures. Attorney Lecker’s letter was answered in a detailed letter sent to him on May 26, 2015. In this letter, the objections were rejected and he was given, above and beyond the letter of the law, an extension of 14 days to turn to the [courts].”

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