The Palestinian Bedouin community at Khirbet Al Humsa (also known as Huma Al B’qai’a) have now had their community demolished and belongings confiscated multiple times. The inhabitants’ number over 70 people including children and newborn babies, who were left to spend a harsh winter in donated tents.
From November 2020, the Israeli military has made repeated incursions into the village, demolishing and confiscating living accommodation, water infrastructure, portable toilets, solar panels, livestock and pens and vehicles in the largest demolition and displacement in years.
Some of the destroyed belongings had been donated by Irish Aid.
Resident Abdelghani Awada, left homeless by the operation, told the AFP news agency that the Israelis gave people “10 minutes to evacuate our homes”.
“Then, they started bulldozing,” he said.
He said his family had lived in the area for generations and accused Israel of trying to “empty the Jordan Valley of its Palestinian population”.
Their village is situated near two illegal settlements. The Israeli military has designated the land as a “military zone” in an effort to clear it of the Palestinian population and make a land grab easier for nearby settlers.
The extensive demolition of property and displacement of the civilian population by the occupying powers is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and may amount to a war crime.
Israel demolishes homes on three main pretexts: 1. On the grounds of “unlawful building”; 2. As punishment; 3. For alleged military purposes.
Unlawful building: Palestinians find it impossible to obtain building permits from the Israeli planning authority and so build homes and businesses on their own lands without the permits. This deeply unfair and discriminatory planning framework then allows the occupier to go ahead and demolish homes, displacing the residents. They then levy onerous charges on the property owners, preventing them from having the resources to rebuild.
Punishment: The homes of political prisoners are demolished by Israeli authorities regularly. This is collective punishment, which is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention and regarded as a war crime. There have never been any consequences for this and Israel continues to act with impunity.
Military: This excuse is frequently used by the Israeli occupation forces to displace Palestinians, demolish their homes and seize lands. It is the current pretext for the repeated destruction of Khirbet Humsa and many other homes and businesses.
So far in 2021, 218 structures have been demolished displacing 367 Palestinians.
Israeli settlers seek to evict Palestinians from their Jerusalem homes by applying the Israeli law which enables Jews to claim ownership of property they or other Jews were in possession of prior to 1948. The occupying power also enacted a law that bars Palestinians from taking such action with regard to the property they owned before 1948, creating the perfect conditions to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem of its Palestinian population.
The Israeli authorities do not invest in infrastructure and services for the Palestinian neighbourhoods, be it physical infrastructure, public institutions, education, culture or sanitation, and does not allow residents of Jerusalem who married residents from elsewhere in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip to live together in the city.
The implementation of this policy, aimed at cleansing parts of the city of Palestinians, is not new. Israel has been carrying it out for years, ever since it occupied the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem and its satellite villages.
Palestinian families recently appealed against an eviction order and were denied. Four houses where the families have lived for nearly 70 years will now be occupied by settlers. The court ordered them to vacate their homes within two and a half months. The lawsuit is part of an organized move designed to dispossess a Palestinian community of its home and establish a settlement in Sheikh Jarrah in its place. Hundreds of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah are in a similar situation in court proceedings, and hundreds more in Batan Al-Hawa in Silwan.
Israel’s illegal settlement operation is expanding daily, resulting in a de facto annexation of Palestinian lands which continues unabated.
Demolitions and evictions go hand in hand with land grabs, destruction of vital infrastructure, plundering of natural resources, environmental destruction and daily oppression and subjugation of rights intended to force Palestinians to leave.
Settler organisations with large financial resources can afford to buy up swathes of land.
The E1 settlement project is most problematic. If completed, it would cut the West Bank in two and separate Palestinian towns from Jerusalem. A contiguous Palestinian state envisioned as part of the two-state solution would become an impossibility.
The E1 settlement plans had been stopped in 2012 by the international community, who saw the deliberate attempt to stymie any possible peace process and was renewed by Netanyahu during the Trump administration. E1 and associated settler-only infrastructure would be catastrophic for the Palestinian population.