Demolition of illegal structures built by Arabs in the West Bank's Area C, August 9, 2016.
(photo credit: MOUNT HEBRON REGIONAL COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Israel must halt its demolitions of illegal Palestinian and Beduin structures in Area C of the West Bank, the United Nations and the European Union said on Wednesday.
The call came just days after Israel initiated bureaucratic proceedings to demolish an entire herding village, al-Khan al-Ahmar, located on the edge of Route 1, just outside of the Kfar Adumim settlement.
The Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and UN Development Activities for the Palestinian territories, Robert Piper, and the Director of UN Relief and Works Agency Scott Anderson, visited al-Khan al-Ahmar.
“Al-Khan al-Ahmar is one of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank, struggling to maintain a minimum standard of living in the face of intense pressure from the Israeli authorities to move to a planned relocation site,” said Piper. “This is unacceptable and it must stop.”
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It’s estimated that there are some 35 families living in the village of temporary shacks and sheds. According to the UN, there are some 140 structures there.
Attorney Shlomo Lecker, who represents the village, said he plans to file a petition to the High Court of Justice asking that the demolitions be halted. He said he has been given 10 days to file objections with the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria and the High Court.
Although it had been feared the IDF could move against the village as early as Thursday morning, Lecker said such plans were delayed.
“The developments in al-Khan al-Ahmar are not unique,” said Piper. “Thousands of families [in the West Bank] live in fear of demolitions at any moment, and entire communities exist in chronic instability. When schools are demolished, the right to education of Palestinian children is also threatened. This creates a coercive environment that forces certain Palestinian communities to move elsewhere.
“The international community must work together to provide assistance and protection to vulnerable communities and insist that international law is respected,” he concluded.
The UN has warned that Israel is attempting to relocate the communities in what would amount to forcible transfer and eviction, “contravening Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under international law.”
“The entire existence of this community, the homes, animal sheds and school that we visited today, is under threat. I am gravely concerned about Israel’s continued pressure to force these Beduin from their homes, destroying their livelihoods and their distinct culture,” said Anderson. “Many of these Palestine-refugee families have already had their homes demolished several times within the last couple of years. I urge the Israeli authorities to halt all plans and practices that will directly or indirectly lead refugees to be displaced once again.”
The EU’s mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah also objected to the pending demolition of the village.
To date in 2017, it said, the IDF has razed 135 structures displacing 218 Palestinians in Area C.
Last year, the IDF demolished 872 structures in Area C, affecting 6,088 Palestinians, of whom 1,663 were children, according to the EU.
The demolitions included EU-funded structures worth slightly more than a €1 million, it added.
“The EU calls upon the Israeli authorities to halt demolitions of Palestinian houses and property in accordance with its obligations as an occupying power under international humanitarian law,” the EU said.
It also called on Israel to cease settlement activity.
Israel has said it razes the structures because they are illegally built, but the international community argues that Palestinians have no choice but to build illegally because the Civil Administration issues very few building permits for Palestinians and Beduin in Area C.
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