Israel must halt its continuous demolitions of the Palestinian herding village of Humsa in the Jordan Valley, six current and former members of the United Nations Security Council have demanded.
“We are deeply concerned at the recent repeated demolitions and confiscation of items, including of EU- and donor-funded structures carried out by Israeli authorities at Humsa Al-Bqai’a in the Jordan Valley, as well as at its impact on its community of approximately 70 people, including 41 children,” Estonian Ambassador to the UN Sven Jürgenson said.
He spoke on behalf of his country and the two other European Union UNSC members, Ireland and France, as well as European UNSC members Norway and the United Kingdom. He also represented the two former EU UNSC countries of Belgium and Germany.
Ambassadors from all six countries issued the virtual message Friday in the aftermath of the UNSC monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which member states also took issue with the demolitions.
While only six European countries signed the message, they represented a larger group of European countries, including the EU itself, which has expressed concern.
Local European diplomats in February made multiple visits to the site of the herding village illegally built in an IDF firing zone in a remote area of the Jordan Valley.
In some cases, IDF confiscations of tents at the site took place while the diplomats were present. On Thursday, a demarche was issued to Israel on the matter by the EU and some individual European countries. The EU asked that Israel return any European donor-funded material that had been confiscated.
In November, the IDF Civil Administration initially demolished the herding village made up of tents and huts, some of which had been donated by Europeans. It returned six times in February, including last Monday, to demolish tents that were put up in the aftermath of each demolition and confiscation of equipment.
On Monday, February 22, the Civil Administration had removed 18 residential and animal structures, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the Palestinian territories (OCHA) said late last week. It also confiscated food parcels, unassembled structures and all water tanks, according to the UN.
Aside from Humsa, IDF demolitions of Palestinians structures had increased by 185% in 2021 in Area C of the West Bank, OCHA said.
“So far in 2021, the Israeli authorities have demolished, seized or forced people to demolish at least 227 Palestinian-owned structures, including 93 donor-funded, displacing 367 people, including some 200 children across the West Bank,” OCHA said. “This represents a near 185% increase in structures targeted and a near 450% increase in donor-funded structures targeted, compared with the equivalent period in 2020,”
The Civil Administration has said it removes illegal structures. The EU and the UN have said Palestinians have no choice but to build illegally given that Israel issues very few permits for Palestinian building in Area C. Both the EU and the UN view the assistance they give the Palestinians as a humanitarian effort to help provide housing.
But the support of an activity that Israel deems illegal has created persistent low-level tension between the Jewish state and the EU.
The Israeli Right has argued that Palestinian illegal construction is part of a Palestinian Authority plan to seize territory in Area C de facto to prevent eventual Israeli sovereignty.
The Palestinians have said they believe Area C should be part of the final borders of their state.
“These large-scale demolitions and confiscations confirm once again the regrettable trend of demolitions and confiscations since the beginning of 2020,” Jürgenson said. “We reiterate our call on Israel to halt demolitions and confiscations.”