The Civil Administration in the West Bank has stepped up demolitions of Bedouin buildings in the E-1 area east of Jerusalem since April. The area is slated for an expansion of the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.
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The number of such demolitions in the first eight months of 2014 was higher than in any comparable period in the last five years, as was the number of people who lost their homes as a result, according to an analysis by the Association of International Development Agencies of data compiled by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Although demolitions were carried out in only four of these eight months (March, April, May and August), more buildings were razed in the E-1 area in those months (35) than in all of 2013 (21). The number of people who lost their homes as a result rose to 156, from 57.
The disproportionate increase in the number of people who were made homeless as a result of the demolitions in the first eight months of 2014 relative to the number of buildings that were razed indicates that a larger proportion of the structures that were destroyed this year were residential. That, as opposed to being used for livestock or other purposes.
In Area C as a whole — portions of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control, according to the Oslo Accords – the Civil Administration razed 346 buildings in the eight-month period, leaving 668 Palestinians homeless. In 2013 as a whole, 565 demolitions left 805 Palestinians homeless.
The only demolitions so far this month occurred on September 8, when the Civil Administration razed three homes and a sheep pen in Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin encampment near Ma’aleh Adumim. A family of 14, including eight children, lived in the three homes.
It was the fourth time in three years that the family’s homes were destroyed, on the grounds that they were within an Israel Defense Forces firing zone. The family, like most Bedouin in the same situation, would rather risk repeated demolitions than leave the area where they live, supporting themselves by raising sheep and goats and doing odd jobs in nearby communities.
The Palestinian news agency Ma’an also reported that on Thursday, Civil Administration inspectors accompanied by dozens of soldiers, a bulldozer and a helicopter photographed all the buildings in several Bedouin communities near Azariyeh and Abu Dis and destroyed some fences.
Bedouin representatives said they think demolitions have escalated recently because the Civil Administration’s plan to resettle them in a new, permanent town north of Jericho is advancing and the agency hopes to pressure them into agreeing to the move. The plan calls for removing thousands of Bedouin from 23 communities east of Jerusalem and resettling them in the new town, Talet Nueima, together with members of other Bedouin tribes. Their removal would allow for the expansion of several Jewish settlements.
The Civil Administration refuses to give the Bedouin building permits for their existing communities or connect these communities to infrastructure, even though they have lived in this area since the 1950s. Meanwhile, their mobility has grown more and more restricted due to the construction of settlements and roads and the declaration of certain areas as firing zones or nature reserves.
Over the past 20 years, the Bedouin have repeatedly petitioned the High Court of Justice against demolitions. While the court has never ruled on their claim that the demolitions are illegal in principle, it has repeatedly canceled them on the grounds that the Bedouin have nowhere else to live. The construction of Talet Nueima, even if the Bedouin have already announced their opposition to it, will let the authorities claim they do have somewhere else to live.
UNRWA, the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees, on Sunday urged donor states to the Palestinian Authority to make their opposition to the plan clearer. Most of the Bedouin were expelled from the Negev in 1948 and are consequently registered as refugees. UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said the plan might constitute forcible transfer, thereby violating international law, and would also enable additional settlement construction, thereby undermining chances for a two-state solution.