Israeli forces began the demolition of some 100 apartments on the outskirts of occupied East Jerusalem early Monday.
The 13 buildings targeted for demolition, many still under construction, are located in the Wadi Hummus neighborhood on the outskirts of Sur Bahir, a village southeast of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.
“Families were taken out of their beds, expelled from their homes and forced to helplessly watch the army destroying them,” according to Ir Amim, an Israeli group that documents settlement activity in Jerusalem.
“Among those forcibly displaced or otherwise impacted are Palestine refugees, some of whom today are facing the reality of a second displacement in living memory,” UN monitoring group OCHA stated.
Some 17 Palestinians already inhabited the buildings, according to UN officials, and many more would have been waiting to move into their homes.
OCHA added that while it was trying to provide emergency aid to displaced families, “no amount of humanitarian assistance can replace a home or cover the massive financial losses sustained today by the owners.”
“Several of the affected people report having invested their life savings into the properties, after securing the required building permits from the Palestinian Authority.”
Wadi Hummus lies in Area A of the occupied West Bank, which is nominally under the full control of the Palestinian Authority, according to the Oslo accords of the early 1990s.
But as Monday’s demolition rampage shows, PA control is illusory and Israeli occupation forces act as they wish.
Israel refuses to permit virtually any Palestinian construction in occupied East Jerusalem or in Area C – the 60 percent of the West Bank that remains under full Israeli military control.
This forces Palestinians to build without permits on their own land and live in constant fear of demolitions.
Construction in Area A and Area B, however, does not require Israeli approval and is done with the permission of the PA.
Palestinian residents of Sur Bahir resort to building in Wadi Hummus to circumvent demolition threats, saying, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, that it is “the only area that remains for future expansion of the village” as the rest is surrounded by the separation wall and Jewish-only settlements.
That did not stop Israel from finding a way to forcibly transfer the residents.
“Although the demolition of Palestinian homes is routine in East Jerusalem, the Wadi Hummus case is particularly notable, since Israel demolished houses there when the entire issue of construction and its approval in the area is not within Israel’s jurisdiction,” Ir Amim stated.
According to OCHA, targeted buildings lie in areas A, B and C.
Israel’s defense ministry ordered Palestinians to evacuate the apartments under the pretext of being too close to Israel’s separation wall and therefore a “security threat.”
Years ago, Israel banned construction within 250 meters of the wall, which runs mostly through the occupied West Bank.
But Ir Amim rejected the “security” pretext, blasting Israel’s policy as a “demographic war waged against East Jerusalem residents.”
Palestinians have challenged the defense ministry in Israel’s high court, but to no avail.
The court, which habitually gives legal cover to Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, ruled in favor of the defense ministry in June and rejected a petition to postpone the demolitions on Sunday, giving occupation forces the green light to begin the campaign of destruction.
Bulldozers at dawn
Israeli forces arrived before dawn on Monday and placed explosives in a multi-story building in Wadi Hummus, activists told Haaretz:
Occupation forces then forcibly expelled families from their homes:
Local media circulated images and videos of the demolition on social media:
Dozens of international activists gathered in Wadi Hummus to protest the impending demolitions early Monday, according to anti-occupation group All That’s Left:
Some were beaten and tear-gassed, according to the International Solidarity Movement:
Israel is trying to force an end to any kind of resistance to its military occupation of Jerusalem.
Israel passed a law last year so that occupation authorities can revoke Palestinian Jerusalemites’ residency status if they should be found in “breach of allegiance” to Israel.
Media photos show that Israeli forces used equipment from manufacturers Scania AB, Caterpillar and Hyundai in carrying out the demolition.
Palestinians call for boycotting and divesting from these corporations as they supply much of the equipment Israel regularly uses to demolish Palestinian homes and even to carry out extrajudicial executions by bulldozer.
Earlier this month, the European Union’s offices in the occupied West Bank issued a toothless statement to “note with concern” Israel’s intention to demolish the buildings in Wadi Hummus.
“The continuation of this policy undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace,” the EU added, underscoring that its core “concern” is a fear of jeopardizing the already moribund two-state solution.
But the EU announced no change in its policy of virtually unconditional political support and financial assistance to Israel – a policy that amounts to rewarding and incentivizing its crimes against Palestinians.
Just last month, EU diplomats posed for photos with officials from Israel’s defense ministry, which ordered Monday’s demolitions:
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Middle East envoy, condemned Israel’s demolitions:
Saleh Higazi, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East program, stated that Israel’s demolition policy under the guise of “security threats” doesn’t “stand up to scrutiny.”
“The truth is that for decades Israel’s authorities have taken arbitrary and disproportionate measures in the name of security to expand their control over Palestinian land and push Palestinians out of areas they consider strategic.”
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, also condemned the demolition on Monday.
“First Israel militarily occupies the land, then it builds a repulsive apartheid wall, then it decides to demolish Palestinian homes built on Palestinian land with legal Palestinian permits because of their proximity to the wall!” Ashrawi said.
“Criminality beyond words.”
Ashrawi called on the International Criminal Court and Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, to “immediately launch an investigation into this and other ongoing Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people and consider any further delay completely inexcusable. Delaying justice any further is tantamount to its denial.”
At least one commentator, however, pointed to the complicity of the Palestinian Authority, which routinely cooperates with maintaining the Israeli military occupation through so-called security coordination:
The Israeli government-backed Act.IL app is directing its users to “like” a comment blaming the Palestinian Authority for permitting contruction close to the wall and shedding “crocodile tears” after Israel demolishes their homes:
That’s in addition to rapid expansion of settlements on Palestinian land authorized by the Israeli government – a war crime.
Harassing witness of crimes
Meanwhile, Israel is harassing the volunteer who filmed the point-blank execution of an injured Palestinian in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron in March 2016.
Last month, Abu Shamsiyeh suffered a sunstroke and his wife called an ambulance.
Israeli forces prevented the Red Crescent ambulance from crossing a checkpoint into the Hebron neighborhood where Abu Shamsiyeh lives.
Paramedics were forced to go by foot to transfer Abu Shamsiyeh to the ambulance, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
Since the March 2016 killing, Abu Shamsiyeh and his family have experienced harassment, assault and death threats from Israeli settlers backed by Israeli forces.
Israelis living in the nearby settlement of Admot Yishai “turned the lives of the local Palestinian residents into a living hell of draconian travel restrictions and constant harassment and violence,” B’Tselem has stated.
Some members of the Abu Shamsiyeh family moved to live with relatives in occupied East Jerusalem to escape such dangers.
The graphic footage published by B’Tselem at the time shows Azarya approaching al-Sharif as he lay immobilized, pointing his weapon at his head and shooting him.
Azarya was released from prison in May 2018 after serving just nine months for killing al-Sharif.
The gunman returned to the site of the shooting to a hero’s welcome from settlers.
- East Jerusalem
- Sur Bahir
- Wadi Hummus
- Ir Amim
- Area A
- Area B
- Area C
- Palestinian Authority
- security coordination
- All That's Left
- International Solidarity Movement
- Scania AB
- European Union
- Maja Kocijancic
- Federica Mogherini
- Amnesty International
- Hanan Ashrawi
- International Criminal Court
- Fatou Bensouda
- Imad Abu Shamsiyeh
- Elor Azarya
- Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif