The Israeli army has displaced more Palestinians since the start of this year than it did in all of 2015, the UN reports. Dozens protest the fourth such demolition in Khirbet Tana in recent months.
By Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org
Around 100 Palestinians protested the Israeli army’s stepped-up campaign of home demolitions by holding Friday prayers in front of a partly demolished mosque in Khirbet Tana, a small village east of Nabus. The mosque dates back to Ottoman times.
A total of 54 structures were demolished in nine Palestinian communities across the West Bank on Thursday alone, displacing 124 people, including 60 children, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). On Wednesday the army demolished six structures in the Palestinian village of Umm el-Kheir.
The most recent demolition in Khirbet Tana Thursday, which was the fourth demolition in the village this year, destroyed several tents, homes and livestock structures. The army also confiscated one car, a tractor and some water tanks.
Several decades ago Israeli military authorities declared Khirbet Tana and the surrounding area as a live-fire army training zone, a tactic Israel uses in various parts of the West Bank to push Palestinian communities out.
UN Coordinator for Humanitarian and Development Activities for the occupied Palestinian territory Robert Piper visited the village in late March.
“It’s hard to see how demolitions like the ones in Khirbet Tana are about anything other than pushing vulnerable Palestinians out of certain parts of the West Bank,” Piper said at the time.
Research by OCHA shows that some 18 percent of the West Bank is designated as military training areas, although “nearly 80 percent of such military areas are not used for training.”
In 2014, a senior IDF officer admitted in a Knesset committee meeting that the army uses live-fire zones as a method for displacing Palestinians from areas in which it does not want them, or in other words, for political purposes.
Speaking at the protest on Friday, Abu Mahmoud Hanani, a resident of Khirbet Tana said, “This is an ongoing campaign to uproot us from this land even though we were living here even before the creation of Israel.”
Another resident, Rasem Hussein took a resilient tone: “we are used to this kind of Israeli occupation demolitions. It will never force us to leave.”
More demolitions so far this year than all of 2015
The Israeli military has dramatically stepped up the demolition of Palestinian homes and structures in 2016.
The army demolished 539 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C of the West Bank thus far in 2016, compared to a total of 453 structures in all of 2015, according to OCHA.
Likewise, military demolitions have displaced 804 Palestinians thus far in 2016, compared to 580 in all of 2015.
The head of Israel’s military government in the West Bank publicly admitted this week that the army demolishes Palestinian homes at a vastly higher rate than it does Jewish settler homes that it deems illegally built.
“Our enforcement against Palestinians is hundreds of percentage points higher [than against Jews],” Maj.-Gen. Yoav ‘Poli’ Mordechai told the Knesset Sub-Committee for Judea and Samaria (West Bank) Affairs on Wednesday.
According to the United Nations, there are an estimated 11,000 demolition orders pending against Palestinian-owned structures in Area C of the West Bank, the 60-percent of the occupied territory over which the Israeli army exercises full administrative control. Almost all Israeli settlements are located in Area C.
Jewish settlers in the West Bank have their own planning mechanisms, albeit subject to approval from the army. Palestinians, meanwhile, have no planning mechanisms at their disposal and must approach the occupying army for permission to build even on their own privately owned land.
That system results in a situation in which less than 1 percent of Area C is zoned for Palestinian use, we reported last year: 94 percent of requests by Palestinians for building permits are rejected; approximately 70 percent of Palestinians in Area C live in unrecognized villages, and thus are not connected to a water supply or have proper sewage infrastructure.
Since the occupation of 1967 began, Israel has demolished more than 28,000 Palestinian-owned structures, according to a report by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).
Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man contributed to this report.