Israel criticised for West Bank demolitions

West Bank demolitions
The buildings were located in an area designated as a military firing zone by Israel. Source: guillaumepaumier.com, CC-BY (via. Wikimedia Commons)
International organisations including the UN and EU have rebuked Israel after it destroyed Palestinian homes and structures in the West Bank

By Tom Kingsbury | Political Editor

International organisations have criticised Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes and structures in Humsa Al Bqai’a (also known as Khirbet Humsa) in the occupied West Bank.

The area is designated as a ‘firing zone’ by Israel, and the Israeli military said the structures were illegal. The demolition took place on November 3.

Along with others, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem accused the Israeli government of using the US election as cover for the demolition.

A total of 73 people were reportedly displaced, including 41 children, though Israeli authorities said they had only made “an enforcement action against seven tents and eight animal pens”.

The former figures, reported by the UN and EU, amongst other organisations, makes this the largest number of people made homeless by a demolition operation in a decade. The demolitions affected three quarters of the community.

As well as demolishing shelters, other structures such as makeshift kitchens and animal pens were destroyed, along with many Palestinians’ belongings.

The UN’s humanitarian affairs agency Ocha reported that 689 structures have been destroyed across the West Bank so far this year, already more than any full year since 2016.

A typical reason given is a lack of Israeli-issued building permits, though Palestinian communities often complain of the difficulty of obtaining these in what the UN called a “restrictive and discriminatory planning regime”.

The UN said the demolitions were designed to coerce Palestinians to leave their homes and warned: “Their vulnerability is further compounded by the onset of winter and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

It called for Israel to “immediately halt unlawful demolitions.”

The EU’s diplomatic service also rebuked Israel, a representative stating that it “confirms the worrying trend of demolitions, evictions and confiscations since the beginning of the year.”

He noted that the “devastating impact” was worst on women and children, and that Israel was violating international law and “basic human rights”.

The service also stated that Israel had destroyed “EU-funded humanitarian assets” and noted that 52 Palestinian schools were currently under threat of demolition.

“The continuation of this policy violates international law, undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace in the region.”

Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu has on many occasions expressed his aim to annex parts of the West Bank, a region heavily disputed between Israel and Palestine.

In a peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates, Israel agreed to suspend annexation, though no commitment was made to cease plans altogether.

Following the agreement Netanyahu said: “I have not given up the annexation yet, and I will bring annexation just as I have with this peace deal”.

He did, however, state that annexation would only take place in accordance with the US. Under the Trump administration, the US is one of very few states to dispute the interpretation of Israeli settlements – which are the areas planned for initial annexation – as illegal under international law.

President-elect Joe Biden is a strong supporter of Israel too, so it is entirely possible that Netanyahu will have US support even during Biden’s presidency.

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