The International Committee of the Red Cross has stopped providing tents for Palestinians in the Jordan Valley whose homes were demolished by the IDF.
“It was not an easy decision to make,” its spokesman, Ran Goldstein, said on Wednesday.
He explained that the ICRC delegation to Israel and the Palestinian territories took the step because the IDF often confiscated the tents.
“Unfortunately there was no other alternative but to take this decision. There is really no sense in distributing tents that are taken away after two days,” he said.
The tents were part of ICRC-provided kits of essentials that included mattresses and blankets, said Goldstein. The ICRC will continue to distribute the kits, just without the tents, he said.
He estimated that the IDF had confiscated ICRC equipment six times in 2013 and once in January of this year, destroying around 34 tents.
Other organizations, such as the Palestine Red Crescent society, will continue to distribute tents, he said.
The Civil Administration could not be reached for comment, but in the past it has explained that it confiscates the tents for the same reason it destroyed the structures: because they were illegally built without permits.
The issue hit the headlines in September of 2013 when the IDF stopped an aid convoy that included a number of EU diplomats, which planned to distribute supplies and tents to displaced Palestinians in the Jordan Valley. It confiscated the tents and the supplies.
Although the IDF also demolishes illegal homes of Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the numbers are significantly higher in the Jordan Valley.
There, Palestinians often live in tents or flimsy tin or wooden structures in a nomadic style that allows them to be with their herds of sheep and goats.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel in January demolished 106 Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, of which 92 were in the Jordan Valley.
Out of those 92 structures, 34 were residential and the other 58 were for livestock or other uses, according to OCHA. As a result of the demolitions, 160 people, including 81 children, were displaced, OCHA said.
It also provided figures from 2013, which saw 390 destroyed structures in the Jordan Valley, including 156 residences, whose demolition displaced 590 people, including 279 children. And in 2012, the Civil Administration took down 172 structures in the Jordan Valley, a move that displaced 279 people.
Last Friday, UN humanitarian coordinator James W. Rawley issued a statement of concern, particularly with respect to the destruction of 36 Palestinian structures in the Jordan Valley community of Ein Al-Hilwe on Thursday that displaced 66 people, including 36 children.
He noted the sharp increase in demolitions from 2012 to 2013, and called on Israel to halt the demolitions, particularly given how difficult it is to obtain building permits.
“I am deeply concerned about the ongoing displacement and dispossession of Palestinians in Area C, particularly along the Jordan Valley where the number of structures demolished more than doubled in the last year. This activity not only deprives Palestinians of access to shelter and basic services, it also runs counter to international law,” Rawley said.
The European Union’s missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah also issued a statement of concern, particularly about the Ein Al-Hilweh demolitions.
It recalled conclusions of the EU foreign affairs council in 2012 and 2013, which called on Israel to meet its obligations to the Palestinians in Area C, “including by halting the forced transfer of population and demolitions of Palestinian housing and infrastructure.”
The Israeli nongovernmental group B’Tselem also issued a statement of concern on Wednesday, and provided a short video of a civil administration demolition on January 8 in the herding village of Khirbet Ein Karzaliya. In the video, a bulldozer can be seen destroying a large black tent while goats bleat and Palestinians watch.