Demolition of illegal structures built by Arabs in the West Bank's Area C, August 9, 2016.
(photo credit: COGAT SPOKESMAN)
The Palestinian Authority condemned Tuesday morning’s IDF demolition of five unauthorized Palestinian structures in the South Hebron Hills region of the West Bank that left 11 adults and 16 minors homeless.
“Israel is relentlessly destroying Palestinians’ homes and livelihoods in order to make way for more illegal settlements,” PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said. “Once again, I call on the international community to step in and stop Israel’s ongoing violations of international law.”
The demolitions took place in the herding village of Umm al-Khair.
Hamdallah’s director of strategic communications, Jamal Dajani, blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the IDF’s actions.
Demolition of illegal Palestinian structures funded by the European Union ( EU ) in the West Bank (Video - B'Tselem)
“With every demolition, the Netanyahu government shows its true intent, that it is not interested in peace,” Dajani said.
“At the same time,” he added, “the morbid silence of the international community emboldens Israeli authorities to keep committing these acts of injustice.”
He chastised the international community even though three of the structures that were taken down had been funded by the European Union.
For the past seven years, the EU has provided Palestinians with such temporary housing in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli civil and military control. It holds that such housing is humanitarian assistance and therefore does not need permits from the IDF, creating persistent friction with Israel.
Right-wing politicians have increasingly campaigned for the IDF to enforce building laws against Palestinians. They are particularly concerned that such unauthorized construction is part of a systematic Palestinian plan to increase its hold on Area C.
On Monday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) visited the South Hebron Hills to see unauthorized Palestinian construction for herself.
“I saw on this trip a tremendous amount of illegal Palestinian building in Area C, with the help of foreign funding,” Shaked said.
“We can’t allow for a double standard when it comes to building,” she went on. “It’s not clear to me how those who fight against Jewish building in Judea and Samaria are a leading force in illegal Palestinian building.”
Israel has been under intense international pressure to halt the demolition of unauthorized Palestinian structures. The United States spoke against such measures on Monday afternoon.
“We are concerned by the accelerated rate of demolitions undertaken by Israeli authorities that continue in the West Bank as well as east Jerusalem,” State Department Press Office director Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters in Washington at the daily briefing.
In July the Quartet – the US, the EU, Russia and the United Nations – condemned such activity in a report it issued on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It explained that the Civil Administration appeared to have issued only one permit for Palestinian housing in Area C in 2014, and none in 2015.
“In the five-year period from 2009 to 2013, only 34 building permits were approved for Palestinians in Area C, out of at least 2,000 submissions,” the report said. “There are over 5,000 demolition orders pending against Israeli structures in Area C, and over 11,000 demolition orders pending against Palestinian structures, three-quarters of which are on private Palestinian land.”
So far this year, the IDF has demolished 574 Palestinian structures in Area C, displacing 889 people, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
It has repeatedly demolished homes in the village of Umm al-Khair. In April of this year, it razed six modular homes and agricultural facilities there, according to Hamdallah’s office, adding that other herding villages, such as Sussiya and Duqaiqah, were under imminent threat of demolition.
The NGO B’Tselem, which has opposed such actions, released a video of Tuesday’s demolition, which showed a crane taking down the structure within minutes as villagers watched.
South Hebron Hills Regional Council head Yohai Damri said he was glad the IDF was finally taking the issue seriously. The structures, he said, were very close the security fence that goes around the Carmel settlement.
“I hope that this is the beginning of a trend,” Damri said. “Until now, the message that was relayed by the failure to enforce the law was that the State of Israel turns a blind eye and legitimizes this construction.”