In an aggravation of Israeli policy of home demolitions, a house and two shops were razed in the Central West Bank village of Hares this morning. An additional house was reduced to rubble in the village of alKhadder, West of Bethlehem and a 1,000 square meters factory was demolished in the town Beit Sahour.
In what seems as a coordinated move, Israeli forces carried out demolitions in two different areas of the West Bank today, rendering at least 16 people homeless. In recent months, international pressure has cause a significant decline in the demolition of Palestinian houses in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank. Israel uses its statutory authority in Area C, which spans over 60% of the West Bank, to dramatically limit Palestinian development. Palestinians fear that today’s consorted demolitions may be the opening salvo in a provocative change in Israeli policy.
Mahmoud Zwahare a popular committee member from the Bethlehem region said during the demolitions that “Israel keeps claiming it strives for peace and constantly complains about Palestinian incitement and violence. It is doing so while carrying destructive and irreversible steps on the ground against ordinary civilians. The demolitions today has nothing to do with the security of Israelis and everything to do with provocation and injustice”.
A convoy of eight armored military jeeps and a D9 bulldozer entered the village of Hares in the early morning today and advanced towards the newly built house of Maher Sultan. The house, which Sultan had just finished constructing after five years, was to be home for himself, his wife and their five children. The two story house was quickly demolished by the bulldozer, which left nothing but rubble behind it.
The demolition order was posted on Sultan’s house a month ago, citing a Mohammed Mansour as the owner of the house, which complicated to procedures to stop the demolition. At the time of the demonstration, Sultan was actually at the DCO in Tulkarem to try an negotiate an injunction, unaware that his home is being razed.
After completing the demolition of Sultan’s house, the Israeli forces continued to demolish two stores in the outskirts of the village.
Almost simultaneously, a massive contingent of Israeli forces invaded the town of alKhadder, West of Bethlehem. The massive Israeli bulldozer demolished the house of Ali Mousa, which was home to nine people, including a one year old baby, as soldiers prevented anyone from nearing the house – including the family’s lawyer, who showed soldiers a 2006 court-issued injunction on the demolition.
After completing the demolition, an Israeli Civil Administration officer who was present at the scene informed people that more house demolitions will be carried in the near future.
Shortly after the alKhadder demolition, forces lead by the Israeli Civil Administration demolished a factory in the town of Beit Sahour. Roughly a year ago, Omar Ayyoub, the owner of the factory was served a halt-construction order by the civil administration, which he complied with and have been fighting ever since. When the bulldozers arrived today he pleaded with the officer in charge to stop the demolition, or at least present him with a valid demolition order. The officer refused and ordered to remove Ayyoub from the scene.
Over 60 percent of the West Bank is currently classified as Area C, in which, under the Oslo accords, Israel has complete control, over both civil and security issues. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) some 70 percent of Area C, or approximately 44 percent of the West Bank, has been largely designated for the use of Israeli settlements or the Israeli military. The Israeli authorities generally allow Palestinian construction only within the boundaries of an Israeli-approved plan and these cover less than one percent of Area C, much of which is already built-up. As a result, Palestinians are left with no choice but to build “illegally” and risk demolition of their structures and displacement.
According to information released by the Israeli State Attorney’s Office in early December 2009, approximately 2,450 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C have been demolished due to lack of permit over the course of the past 12 years.