Spike in demolition of illegal Palestinian homes in 2020

The demolitions rendered 1,006 Palestinians homeless, of which 627 were in the West Bank.

The ruins of Khirbet Humsa, which the IDF demolished in November 2020. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The ruins of Khirbet Humsa, which the IDF demolished in November 2020.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
There was a spike last year in IDF demolitions of illegal Palestinian homes in Area C of the West Bank and of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem, according to data published Monday by the human rights NGO B’Tselem.
Some 273 illegal Palestinian homes were demolished in 2020, of which 152 were in the West Bank and 121 in east Jerusalem, B’Tselem said.
The demolitions rendered 1,006 Palestinians homeless, 627 of them in the West Bank. This was more than in any year since 2016, according to B’Tselem. In comparison, in 2019 677 Palestinians were rendered homeless by home demolitions, 397 in 2018 and 528 in 2017.
During 2020 there were more demolitions in the West Bank than in east Jerusalem, but the demolished homes in the West Bank were often simpler modular structures.
In one well-known instance, the entire illegal herding village of Khirbat Humsa, home to 74 people in the Jordan Valley, was destroyed.
Based on B’Tselem data, 1,675 Palestinian structures in the West Bank were destroyed in the last 14 years, rendering 7,277 Palestinians homeless. In 2016, 277 homes and 368 structures were demolished in the West Bank, with 1,174 Palestinian displaced. In east Jerusalem that year, 92 homes were destroyed and 329 Palestinians were left homeless.
The IDF is under pressure from the Israeli Right in the West Bank to increase enforcement against illegal Palestinian building.
NGOs like B’Tselem have argued that the Palestinians in the West Bank have no option but to build illegally because the IDF rarely issues permits.
“Although Israel tries to justify the broad destruction as ‘law enforcement,’ the law has little to do with this policy. The planning system Israel itself created – run by the Civil Administration in the West Bank...blocks Palestinian development and does not permit Palestinians to build homes,” B’Tselem said.
Right-wing politicians and NGOs, however, fear, that Palestinian building is part of a Palestinian Authority plan to seize land in Area C by creating facts on the ground. A number of Knesset committees have held heated debates on the matter during the year, in which politicians called for increasing enforcement.
Last week the Community Affairs Ministry announced that NIS 20 million would be spent to further oversight of illegal Palestinian building.
The Israeli demolition of Palestinian structures has been a source of tension with the United Nations and the European Union, which have supported such construction on humanitarian grounds, including with financial contributions.