November demolition and displacement report

Girl standing near site of Al Muntar school - photo by Lys Arango

Al Muntar school - photo by Lys Arango

November has seen widespread demolitions throughput the occupied West Bank (including occupied East Jerusalem), with 33 structures demolished, 60 people displaced-  34 of whom are children- and more then 327 people affected by them. In the Naqab desert, Israel, 5 demolitions of residential structures were carried out.  With most of the demolitions happening this month in Occupied East Jerusalem, the annual total of demolitions in the city alone has risen to 155, displacing at least 211 people.

Punitive demolitions

Two Punitive demolitions have been carried out this month in the village of Beit Surik in the Ramallah region and the village of Yatta in South Mount Hebron, displacing a further 11 people, including seven children. Since the beginning of 2017, eight homes have been demolished or sealed on punitive grounds, displacing 44 Palestinians.

Al Muntar school, photo by Lys Arango

With two new schools- Al Muntar and Wadi as Seek- slated for demolition, more then 60 schools in the West Bank are currently at risk of demolition and hundreds of children are fighting for their right to education on a daily basis.

For the first time, Israeli authorities have issued a military order, which stipulates the destruction/removal of entire Palestinian communities rather than individual structures built without permits. The order was originally enacted, and used a number of times in the past, for the evacuation of unauthorized settlement outposts; however, in 2015 the order was amended so it can be applied against Palestinians too. This month alone, the Israeli army has issued these orders to three Palestinian herding communities: Ein al Hilwe and Um Jmal in the northern Jordan valley, and in Jabal al Baba in the Jerusalem periphery. The latter is in the area of the E1 settlement plan, designed to link Ma’ale Adumim with Jerusalem.  As a result, a total of 520 structures, including 130 previously provided as aid, are at risk of destruction or seizure, and 419 people, about half of them children, are at heightened risk of forcible transfer.

We are witnessing a significant risk of entire villages being demolished, schools under threat of demolition, a rise in self demolitions and numerous demolition orders issued to Palestinians throughout the country. There is great concern to the already vulnerable communities in Area C –area under full Israeli civil and military control – and in occupied East Jerusalem.

The residents of Al-Bustan have been embroiled in a decades-long battle that begun in the late 1970’s after the Israeli government embarked on a plan to build a national park in the area, with the city’s master plan defining the area as an open space where construction was prohibited, according to Israeli rights group B’tselem. Due to the designation, residents have long faced great difficulties contending with demolition orders issued against the homes that were built there without permits-mostly in the 1980’s- due to the increased population in the area. The municipality began issuing demolition orders and indictments to homes in Al-Bustan in 2005 as part of Israeli authorities’ plan to establish the Jewish site “King David’s Garden” in Silwan and around the “Holy Basin”,which includes many Christian and Muslim holy sites. Silwan is one of many Palestinian neighborhoods in Occupied East Jerusalem that has seen an influx of Israeli settlers at the cost of home demolitions and the eviction of Palestinian families.

Testimonies collected by the Applied Research Institute -Jerusalem (ARIJ) found that the procedures to apply for Israeli-issued building permits were lengthy, sometimes lasting for several years, while the application costs could reach up to 300,000 shekels ($79,180). As four out of five Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem live under the poverty line, applying for costly building permits is nearly impossible, leading to only 7% of the building permits that are issued in Jerusalem to go to Palestinian neighborhoods.

All the structures demolished that day were based on the grounds of Illegal building.

Communities facing heightened risk of forcible transfer

Kafr ‘Aqab, Jerusalem

At the beginning of November 2017, Israeli authorities have published their intention to demolish an entire neighborhood in Kafr ‘Aqab, occupied East Jerusalem. The Al Matar neighborhood consists of six Palestinian owned buildings, each containing 6-7 floors and all together 138 apartments. The neighborhood’s mosque, built inside one of the buildings, will be demolished as well. As oppose to other demolitions, the buildings are scheduled to be blown up using explosives. The buildings are located on the route of a planned road designed to connect Jerusalem to the Qalandiya checkpoint. Kafr ‘Aqab is located within the Jerusalem municipal boundaries and most of its residents hold Israeli ID’S, however, since 2002 when it was physically severed from the rest of the city by the Separation Wall, the neighborhood receives almost no municipal services although the residents living there continue to pay their taxes and are entitled to services. The buildings were built in the past two years and according to the owners, around 200 families have bought or rented apartments in them spending large sums of money to secure a house in one of the only neighborhoods that offers new residential housing for East Jerusalem Palestinian residents.

Um Jmal & Ein al Hilwe, Northern Jordan Valley

On 16 November 2017 the United Nations office for the coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories issued an urgent statement describing the events that took place in the area: On 9 November 2017, the residents found on the side of a nearby road a military order, dated 1 November 2017, demarcating an area of some 550 dunums (around 135.9 acres), which includes the area of the two communities, where all property should be removed from within eight days. According to a rapid field assessment carried out by OCHA, a total 129 people, of whom 61 are children, currently live in the two communities, including 15 households residing in the area all year round and five on a seasonal basis. Within the designated area there are 140 structures, of which 29 are residential, 60 are livestock-related structures (the residents own 1,390 heads of sheep, 655 cows and 20 camels), and the rest are kitchens, latrines and solar panel units. Nearly half of all these properties are donor-funded structures provided as humanitarian assistance. The land in the affected area is owned either by the Latin Patriarchate or privately by individual Palestinians. However, none of the communities has a planning scheme and, consequently, all structures lack Israeli-issued building permits. One of the communities (Um Jmal) is also partially located in an area designated as a ‘firing zone’ for military training, where access is prohibited. On 11 November 2017, the communities’ lawyer filed an objection against the order with the Israeli military commander, which should be answered within seven days, during which enforcement measures are unlikely. If the objection is rejected, there is an option to petition the Israeli High Court of Justice. This is apparently the first time that this military order, which stipulates the destruction/removal of entire communities rather than individual structures built without permits, is being applied against Palestinians. The order was originally enacted, and used a number of times in the past, for the evacuation of unauthorized settlement outposts; however, in 2015 the order was amended so it can be applied against Palestinians too.

Jabal al Baba, E1, Jerusalem periphery

A map of Jabal al Baba from Norwegian Refugee Council

The Bedouin community of Jabal al Baba in the E1 area are under immediate threat of forcible transfer after receiving a military order on 16 November 2017 that declared part of the land as a “Restricted Area”- a map was attached to the order designated the targeted area. The order was issued on 1 November 2017, but the community received it only on the 16th. The order gave the community eight days to remove all the property from the designated area which is a privately owned by the Vatican. This order is similar to the order issued in the Jordan valley for the Ein al Hilwe community. a letter to the Israeli court of appeals was sent immediately by a lawyer from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Jabal al Baba is located in the heart of Israel’s contentious E1 plan, which aims to connect the illegal settlement block of Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem. The plan would further isolate occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and sever the Palestinian territory from north to south. The Jabal al Baba community is home to more then 300 People, who mostly originate from the Naqab desert in the South of Israel. After being displaced from there in 1948 they moved to dwell in the area, which is located today in what is Area C, making it under full Israeli administrative and military control. While numerous houses in the community have been demolished in the past, the residents continue to build and to remain on their land. But the new practice of issuing a demolition order for the entire community will pose an incredible challenge for the steadfast residents.

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Written by Chaska Katz
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