First Week of 2017: Israel Demolishes Homes of 151 Palestinians, Almost Four Times Last Year's Average

The IDF's Civil Administration is carrying out Netanyahu’s vow to demolish the homes of Arabs with a vengeance.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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A Palestinian surveying a tin shack demolished by the IDF's Civil Administration in Khirbet Tana, January 3, 2017.
A Palestinian surveying a tin shack demolished by the IDF's Civil Administration in Khirbet Tana, January 3, 2017.
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to settlers from the unauthorized outpost of Amona to enforce the law "equally" by demolishing the homes of Arabs is being strictly fulfilled.

The number of Palestinian buildings demolished in the first week of January 2017 is almost four times as high as the weekly average for 2016: 20 structures. In 2015, the average was 10 structures a week, according to the records of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In Area C, which is under full Israeli civil and security control, between Monday and Thursday the Israel Defense Forces’ Civil Administration demolished 65 structures in Palestinian communities, and seven rainwater cisterns. The Jerusalem Municipality demolished another two homes in East Jerusalem. Some 151 people, including 90 children, lived in the buildings that were demolished.

On Monday, the day on which the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee discussed a proposal to annex the city of Ma’aleh Adumim (east of Jerusalem) to Israel, the Civil Administration and IDF forces demolished 12 tin and wood shacks – including eight used for living purposes – in two Bedouin communities from the Jahalin tribe south of the settlement; three shacks in Bir al-Maskub; and nine in Wadi Sneysel. In total, 84 people, 68 of whom are children, lost the roofs over their heads within just a few hours.

Last August, the Civil Administration demolished structures in these communities. But the residents have nowhere else to live and were forced to build new shacks. In the 1990s, dozens of families from the Jahalin tribe were expelled from the area in order to allow the expansion of the settlement.

On Tuesday, the Civil Administration demolished 49 structures in Khirbet Tana in the northwestern part of the Jordan Valley: 13 residential structures, 9 portable toilets and the rest various agricultural buildings. Twenty-eight adults and 22 children lost their homes because of the demolitions. Another 71 people were affected by the destruction of the agricultural structures.

Sheep grazing in the Palestinian village of Khirbet Tana, where the IDF demolished 49 structures on January 3, 2017.

Some 40 families (250 men and women) live in this ancient village of caves, east of the village of Beit Furik. In four previous raids last year, the Civil Administration demolished 150 shacks, sheep pens, tents and various sanitary structures – as well as a school that had been built thanks to European contributions. During the raid on Tuesday, a work stoppage order was also presented for the new school, which is again being constructed with European donations. The High Court of Justice had dismissed a petition of the residents of Khirbet Tana against the order to permanently evacuate their homes, but the residents have built simple new dwellings and a school because they refuse to leave the village where their families lived long before 1948, and before the IDF declared the area a firing zone.

On Wednesday, a large army force raided the lands of the village of Tekoa, southeast of Bethlehem. Here, the Civil Administration bulldozers demolished seven rainwater cisterns and another three sheds used for agricultural purposes. The head of the village council told Haaretz that one of the cisterns was dug some 25 years ago, while the others were dug more recently. Some 180 people depend on these cisterns for their livelihood. And Thursday morning, the Civil Administration demolished an agricultural structure in the village of Jinsafut, east of Qalqilyah in the West Bank.

In mid-December, the Civil Administration told Haaretz that it was holding 11 agricultural machines, mostly tractors, that were confiscated from Palestinian farmers after the IDF turned their lands in the northern Jordan Valley into a firing zone.

The Palestinians must pay the Civil Administration a ransom of a few thousand shekels to release each tractor, and make a commitment not to commit the “offense” a second time. In 2016, only two tractors were released after payment was made. In addition to their agricultural uses, the tractors also aid in transporting water to the residents and their livestock, from the springs that are located a few kilometers away from the sheds. Israel does not allow the Palestinian communities in areas under its control to connect to the water infrastructure.

Another tractor was confiscated from farmers in the northern Jordan Valley on December 21, after they tried to reach their lands on the east side of Highway 90 (named after that preacher of Palestinian population transfer, former Minister Rehavam Ze’evi).

In the final three months of 2016, the IDF conducted 20 live-fire training drills on the land of the Palestinian communities in the northern Jordan Valley. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, these drills meant about 220 people – including some 100 minors from the communities of Al-Ras al-Ahmar, Khirbet Khumsa and Abzik – were ordered to temporarily leave their homes on 19 different occasions.

In the village of Al-Farisiyah, which was not evacuated, the army forbade the residents to graze their sheep on the nearby lands, then trained on the cultivated fields and even placed mobile toilets on them, B’Tselem reported. In addition, the troops cleared part of the land in the area to make it easier for military vehicles to pass, and in doing so caused additional damage to the agricultural lands.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office told Haaretz that the “firing zones in the Jordan Valley in particular, and in the area of Judea and Samaria in general, were declared firing zones with an order under the authority of the military commander of the region back in the 1970s, based on security needs. Residents found in these firing zones are doing so in violation of the law.

“Before every military drill, actions are taken whose purpose is to prevent bodily harm or damage to property, such as conducting lookouts, patrols, placing security and dialoguing with the residents of the area through the Civil Administration. During the drills, the residents are requested to leave the exercise area. The actions mentioned in response were approved through the Supreme Court in petitions that were filed in similar matters,” said the IDF Spokesman’s Office.

Dafna Banai of Machsom Watch reported on Tuesday, December 20, 2016: “All tracks connecting the Palestinian Jordan Valley with the West Bank localities of Aqraba, Beit Furik and Tubas are now blocked with earth mounds, ditches, huge boulders and locked gates. Even those opened in the past few years have now been blocked again.”

“Only Gokhia Gate, which separates the Jordan Valley from Nablus and Tubas, is open today [since Sunday, according to local residents]. All of a sudden, there are no ‘security grounds,’ no ‘danger to Palestinians because the area is used for maneuvers’ – of all times, when the maneuvers are on, the gate is open (to enable war machines free passage without delay every time it has to be opened and closed). Near the gate, three armored vehicles and bored soldiers are seen. A military exercise is taking place again in the Palestinian Jordan Valley. We entered Al-Ras al-Ahmar, but couldn’t get through beyond the first encampment because of the thick mud. It was raining heavily this morning and the entire region turned into one big swamp,” she wrote.

“From 12 noon until 4:30 P.M., the road ascending to Tyassir and the rest of the West Bank was blocked because of the army’s maneuvers. Long lines of Palestinian vehicles were seen from Al-Malih, where two bored soldiers were stopping traffic. The soldiers had no idea when the road would be open again,” reported Banai.

“The Palestinians, mostly men, day workers on their way home from their work in the settlements – were loafing around on the road, smoking. Some asked us to ask the soldiers to let them get home – here, there, 200 meters away in Al-Burj. But the soldiers claimed they had orders not to let anyone through, no exceptions. We were also in phone contact with Mahdi, who was on the other [western] side of the blockage, and he spoke of long waiting lines there as well. Worst of all – school and kindergarten children (like 5-year-old Rina) had to wait on the road for 4.5 hours! They roamed around among the APCs, begging the soldiers for some food; they hadn’t had anything to eat since morning,” she wrote.

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