An Israeli soldier reacts to tear gas during the demolition of a Palestinian house at the order of the Israeli army as Palestinians try to stop the demolition in the West Bank village of Biet Ula, west of Hebron January 21, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes calls into question the government’s commitment to peace, the US said on Friday.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby addressed the issue in response to a query by a reporter about the demolition of Beduin homes in the Negev.
However, he spoke more globally about the issue and related it to the West Bank and the frozen peace process.
“We’re closely following, as I said, demolitions and evictions that are undertaken by Israeli authorities, leaving many Palestinians homeless,” Kirby told reporters in Washington. “And as we’ve said before, these actions are indicative of a damaging trend of demolition, displacement and land confiscation, and alongside settlement-related activity and continued construction, work against the possibility of a two-state solution and call into question the Israeli government’s commitment to that twostate solution.”
On Friday the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a flash statement on the IDF’s razing of illegally built Palestinian and Beduin structures in Area C of the West Bank, many of which are modular. That area is under Israeli military and civilian control.
OCHA charged that Israel has destroyed 323 Palestinian structures in the first few months of 2016, most of which were located in Area C.
That number is higher than in any other “similar time frame since 2009,” it said.
Almost 440 Palestinians were displaced in 2016 as a result, of which more than half were children, it said.
“Roughly one-third of the structures targeted so far this year (108) were provided as humanitarian assistance to families in need,” it said.
“These are some of the highest levels of demolition and displacement recorded in a similar time frame since 2009.”
On March 2, according to OCHA, the civil administration destroyed 41 illegal structures in Khirbat Tana, a Palestinian herding village in Area C, southeast of Nablus.
Some 10 families made up of 36 people, of which 11 are children, were displaced a result, OCHA said.
One of the buildings served as an elementary school, it added. Twelve of the structures were provided by the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Red Crescent.
The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories Unit said the structures that were taken down in Khirbat Tana were illegal.
“Enforcement measures were taken against six buildings; five tents that were used as pens; five pens and four tents that were built illegally without permits in a firing zone, which is a life hazard,” COGAT said. “The enforcement measures were taken after completing the supervision process and issuing demolition orders.”
When it comes to Palestinian and Beduin demolitions in Judea and Samaria, Israel generally targets structures that were built illegally.
According OCHA the civil administration has in the past taken down homes in Khirbat Tana, which is located in a firing zone that the IDF uses for training purposes.
The Palestinians use that land to graze their flocks, OCHA said and have placed their homes nearby.
The village of some 250 people has been in a protracted legal battle with the state regarding its location. It has also requested a master plan that would allow it to build legally in that area.
“Approximately 18 percent of area of the West Bank has been declared by the Israeli authorities as firing zones,” OCHA said and added that “38 Palestinian communities are located within these areas.”
The UN, the US and the EU in the last few years have increased their protests over Israeli demolition of illegal Palestinian construction in the West Bank and the lack of Israeli issued building permits for legal homes in that area.
Right-wing Israeli politicians in turn have attacked the civil administration for failing to demolish such illegal structures that they believe are an attempt by the PA to strengthen its foothold in the region.