Israel and another six-month period of demolition of Palestinian homes

 Israeli army excavator demolishing a Palestinian building in Wadi Hummus, 22 July 2019 Israeli army excavator demolishing a Palestinian building in Wadi Hummus, 22 July 2019 © AFP

This article is a brief presentation of the European Union’s Six-Month Report on Demolitions and Seizures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem

On 28 May, the Office of the European Union Representative (West Bank and Gaza Strip, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East - UNRWA) issued a report concerning the demolition and seizure of Palestinian properties  happening in the West Bank at the hands of Israel during the second half of  2019.

As underlined throughout the report, only during the last six months of 2019, 319 Palestinian structures placed in the West Bank were demolished or seized by Israeli authorities. As a result, 447 people - including 222 children - were displaced. Considering the yearly data, 623 structures were demolished in 2019 (35% more than the previous year) and during the same period a 95% increase in displacements was recorded in comparison with 2018. The seizure or demolition of structures included European Union (EU) humanitarian assets, amounting to 62 buildings in the last half of 2019. 

Many territories in the West Bank are subject to Israeli authorities spatial planning. Indeed, according to the report, only about 1% of the Area C and 13% of East Jerusalem may be used by Palestinians and, from 1967 on, Palestinians were allocated only the 0.24% of state land in the West Bank. Building without permission implies the risk of demolition and expensive fines and currently more than 10,000 demolition orders are pending, putting over 100,000 people at risk of displacement. 

Palestinians were most affected during the months of July and December 2019, following respectively the destruction of eight water cisterns that supplied four communities in Hebron and the uprooting of more than 2,000 trees, and the demolition of 11 buildings and two water reservoirs. Uprooting trees and demolition of water distribution and transportation facilities was one of the main factors that lead to record a number of affected civilians considerably higher than in the past and the second highest yearly number of displaced people in the last five years.

The situation is likely to worsen and have an even bigger impact on Palestinian people in the future, while strengthening the Israeli presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Notably, the lack of infrastructures and housing in East Jerusalem is one of the main elements that will contribute to further worsen the situation. Indeed, in 2019 the amount of demolished structures in East Jerusalem increased sharply and so did the one of displaced people in this zone too. Secondly, controls, restrictions of water and sanitation networks, as well as demolishing and seizure of water infrastructures, affected Palestinian communities already suffering from water shortages. Moreover, since July 2019 when the military order 1797 has been implemented – empowering the Israeli Civilian Administration to remove any structure not completed or completed within six months from the demolition order - it gave impetus and legitimization to 17 demolitions in six months. These series of demolitions put in danger not only the present, but also the future of Palestinian people, as about 50 schools are currently at risk of demolition, thus impeding free access to education for Palestinian people. Furthermore, a large number of punitive demolitions is currently conducted by Israeli authorities against Palestinians allegedly guilty of attacks against Israelis, in spite of the fact that punitive demolitions are prohibited under international law. A further element of concern is the developments related to the Israeli army training, namely military exercises have been carried on in territories which were declared as firing areas by the Israeli army itself and thus it justified the demolition of 37 buildings in the Jordan valley. 

Finally, the report underlines the actions taken by the EU during the reporting period in order to raise the attention on the issue of seizures and demolitions at the expenses of Palestinian people. Notably, the EU stressed that violations of children rights occurred and underlined that unlawful demolitions of Palestinian buildings undermine the feasibility of a two-State solution and let the perspective of a long-lasting peace go drifting.



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Author: Giulia Azzarone

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