IDF razes Palestinian home, school as Israel tightens hold on Area C

A small clash broke out at the scene between the IDF and Palestinians.

Palestinians in the Ar Rifa'iyya village sit by the rubble fo the Rib'i family home, demolished Thursday by Israeli security forces in the South Hebron Hills. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Palestinians in the Ar Rifa'iyya village sit by the rubble fo the Rib'i family home, demolished Thursday by Israeli security forces in the South Hebron Hills.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Israeli security forces demolished an illegal Palestinian home and the foundations of an elementary school in the West Bank as Israel moved this week to tighten its hold on Area C.
Border police, the IDF and the Civil Administration surprised the Palestinian residents of the village of Ar Rifa’iyya, when they arrived without warning in the morning to take down a small illegally built cement home that belonged to Hussein Muhammad Rib’i. He lived there with his wife and their six children.

After cranes reduced the home to rubble within 20 minutes, a brief but violent clash broke out between Palestinians observers of the demolition and the Border Police that was caught on video. One of the Border Police can be seen kicking a Palestinian man in the butt as he tried to walk away and pepper spraying him. When queried about the video, a border police spokesman said that the officers were responding to a violent situation.
The Rib’i family was the midst of appealing to the Civil Administration for a building permit with the help of the Society of Saint Yves, a Catholic human rights organization.
The demolition was “Illegally” carried out charged Attorney Haitham Al-Khateem who heads the society legal department. It’s the fourth time this year that the Civil Administration has failed to provide the proper paper work with respect to a demolition, thereby preventing a last minute legal appeal prior to the demolition, he said.
A short time after the Ar Rifa’iyya demolition, security forces demolished the concrete foundations of what would have been an elementary school in the village of Birin. In acting against the school, the security forces made use of an experimental military order 1797 that was put in place last year to make it easier for the IDF to remove illegal building during the construction phase. 
The demolitions came just one week after Defense Minister Naftali Bennett declared that he was embarking on a battle for Area C of the West Bank to ensure that it remains in Israel hands. He pledged to crack down on illegal Palestinian building and appointed Kobi Eliraz to head a new task force on the matter.

Bennett followed that action this week with an initial approve of the creation of seven nature reserves in the West Bank. It’s a move that would help preserve the natural beauty and the ecology of the West Bank Bank, but would also place additional land off limits to Palestinians.

Thursday’s demolitions which came as Bennett is moving up in the polls, became a visual illustration for the Left and the Right of Bennett’s new push to solidify Israeli hold on Area C, which is under Israeli military and civilian control. Bennett believe that Area C should be part of Israel’s sovereign borders, while the Palestinians believe that will be part of the final borders of its state.
“The school that was demolished today was one more example of the European Union's support for the Palestinian Authority's carefully orchestrated program of land seizure in Area C, using the most vulnerable populations as pawns,” said Naomi Khan, Director of the international division of the right-wing group Regavim.
“This particular school - the second such structure in the illegal outpost known as Birin, was being built on state land in an area adjacent to Maaleh Hever, on an archaeological site called Khirbet Manzil. Unfortunately, this pattern of illegal construction is nothing new,” she said.
“What is new - and is very welcome and long overdue - is the fact that the Civil Administration has begun to take the strategic threat posed by these illegal PA outposts [Birin] seriously,” said Naomi Khan, Director of the international division of the right-wing group Regavim. “The Civil Administration exercised its authority to demolish new structures - and stood up, at last, to the EU's brazen meddling and unabashed support for illegal construction. We hope this new resolve will gain momentum, and turn the tide back on the PA's hostile takeover of Area C,” Kahn said.
Amit Gilutz, the spokesman for the Left-wing group B’tselem said that exactly the opposite was true and that “ Israel’s planning and building policy is designed to suffocate Palestinian development in their land.”
He continued, “First, as a matter of policy, Israel does not grant Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank building permits. Then, when they build in spite of this reality – since having a roof above your head is a necessity – Israel issues demolition orders and often demolishes their homes, schools, community centers and other structures,” he said.
“In 2019 alone Israel demolished 106 housing units in the West Bank, leaving 349 Palestinians, including 160 minors, homeless, as well as 150 non-residential structures. Hiding behind a veil of law enforcement, these actions aim to facilitate an Israeli takeover of as much Palestinian land as possible, but with as few Palestinians on it as possible,” Gilutz said.
According to the Left-wing organization Bimkom — Planners for Planning Rights, the Civil Administration has issued only 56 building permits for Palestinian construction in the last three years. It based that number on Civil Administration data it received through a Freedom of Information request.
In Ar Rifa’iyya on Thursday, the struggle for Area C, left the Rib’i family without a roof over its head. Once their home was gone, all their possession were left in a pile, under a laundry line. Clothes now fluttered over their sofa and refrigerator.
Initially they sat, almost as in mourning, by the rubble of their home, next to the what had been the door, as it lay on top of the stone and cement.