IDF targets illegal Palestinian building, UN warns of spike in such razing

From March to August 389 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, on average 65 per month, were razed.

Civil Administration demolishes illegal Palestinian structures in the West Bank, September 23, 2020 (photo credit: COGAT)
Civil Administration demolishes illegal Palestinian structures in the West Bank, September 23, 2020
(photo credit: COGAT)
An IDF operation targeted illegal Palestinian buildings in the West Bank on Wednesday, as the United Nations warned against a four-fold spike in such demolitions despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Six illegal uninhabited structures, including an events hall, were removed in Samaria and in the South Hebron Hills, as were illegal electrical lines, the Civil Administration Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria said.
The NGO Regavim and right-wing politicians are pressuring the Civil Administration to take action against illegal Palestinian buildings in Area C of the West Bank.
Regavim and members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee say the Palestinians are building illegally to seize control of Area C through changing facts on the ground.
“A real war is being waged for the land in the South Hebron Hills against the [Palestinian objective] of establishing an Arab terrorist state in the heart of the State of Israel,” Hebron Hills Regional Council chairman Yochai Damri said Wednesday.
The Palestinian Authority was systematically planning the illegal construction, with funding from European countries, he said.
Earlier this month, outgoing UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories Jamie McGoldrick said it was misleading for the IDF to speak of illegal Palestinian construction given that “Israeli-issued building permits” are “almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain, due to the restrictive and discriminatory planning regime, and leaves them no venues for authorized construction.”
Demolitions have included populated structures, he said, adding that it was sad the IDF has not followed through with an initial promise to hold off on populated demolitions during the pandemic.
From this March to August, “389 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, on average, 65 per month,” were razed, making that the “highest average destruction rate in four years,” McGoldrick said.
The demolitions “left 442 Palestinians homeless, further exposing many to risks associated with the pandemic,” he said. “In August alone, 205 people were displaced, more than in any other single month since January 2017.”
Compared with the monthly average of demolitions from January to July 2020, there was a “nearly fourfold increase in the number of people displaced (202 versus 56)” and a “55% increase in the number of structures targeted (88 versus 56),” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a separate statement.
McGoldrick said he was particularly concerned by the IDF’s use of an “expedited procedure (Order 1797) for the removal of structures as soon as 96 hours after delivering a notice.” The quick action does not leave homeowners time to appeal to the courts to halt the demolitions, he said.
COVID-19 “has increased the needs and vulnerabilities of Palestinians, who are already trapped in the abnormality of prolonged military occupation,” McGoldrick said. “Unlawful demolitions exacerbate these vulnerabilities and must stop immediately.”
On Wednesday, the IDF, together with the Civil Administration and the Border Police, took action against the illegal structures. Border Police forces led an enforcement action near Negohot in the South Hebron Hills.
The IDF also took down two illegal walls near Ni’lin, near Ramallah, and evacuated an area near Husan, near Bethlehem, where Palestinians had tried to encroach on state land.
Wednesday’s operation was the latest attempt “to eradicate the phenomenon of illegal [Palestinian] construction throughout Judea and Samaria” while maintaining the rule of law, Civil Administration Supervision Unit director Marco Ben-Shabbat said.
“We will continue to work tirelessly against those illegal activities, including environmental hazards and invasions of state lands, using all the tools at our disposal,” he said.