In the past week, the Civil Administration demolished 33 temporary residential structures in three Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley – Fayasil, al-Hadidiya, and Khirbet Yarza – and in the Palestinian community Khirbet Bir al-‘Id in the southern Hebron hills. Since the beginning of 2011, the Civil Administration has demolished 103 Palestinian residential structures in Area C*. They were home to 695 persons, among them 341 minors.
The demolitions by the Civil Administration last week took place as follows:
- Fasayil (located in the central Jordan Valley): On 14 June '11, the Civil Administration demolished 16 temporary structures in which people lived. As a result, 108 persons, including 59 minors, lost their home. Three enclosures for livestock were also destroyed.
- Khirbet Bir al-‘Id (located in the southern Hebron hills): On 20 June '11, the Civil Administration demolished four temporary structures in which people lived. As a result, 69 persons, including 48 minors, lost their home. The Civil Administration also destroyed an outhouse and a vineyard containing 30 grapevines.
- Al-Hadidiya (located in the northern Jordan Valley): On 21 June '11, the Administration demolished eight temporary residential structures, along with 18 enclosures for livestock. As a result, 36 persons, including 15 minors, lost their home.
- Khirbet Yarza (located in the central Jordan Valley): On 21 June '11, the Administration demolished two temporary residential structures. As a result, 14 persons, including 7 minors, lost their home.
Israel's policy is to prevent building and development in Palestinian communities in Area C, which spans some 60 percent of the West Bank and is under complete Israeli control. Two main methods are used to this end.
One is having the Civil Administration prepare for some communities what are ostensibly outline plans, but in fact serve to restrict building to areas that have already been built-up. Thus, they effectively prevent communities from expanding and developing. The other is declaring large swaths of land as “firing zones”. This was used, for example, in the area in which al-Hadidiya and Khirbet Yarza are located. "Firing zones" have been declared in 46 percent of the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, although some of them are located along main traffic arteries or next to land worked by settlers; some even include land cultivated by settlers. Although Palestinian communities lived on some of these lands prior to the occupation of the West Bank, since they have been included in "firing zones", the Civil Administration now forbids Palestinians from using them for any purpose, including residence. The homes of Palestinians still living on such land are systematically demolished. Before the recent wave of demolitions, the residents of al-Hadidiya were last subjected to this practice on 7 April 2011, when three residential structures were destroyed. As a result, 26 persons, including 16 minors, lost their homes.
For years, the Civil Administration and the settlers in the southern Hebron hills have been attempting to drive the residents of Khirbet al-‘Id out of their village. In 2004, the villagers had no choice but to leave after the area was declared a "firing zone" and after they were repeatedly harassed by settlers. In its 2009 decision on a petition filed by Rabbis for Human Rights, the High Court of Justice ordered the Civil Administration to enable the Palestinians to return to the land on which they had lived, but only to sections that had not been declared a "firing zone." In December of the same year, the Civil Administration issued demolition orders for 17 shacks in the community, on the grounds that they had been built without a permit.
This attitude starkly contrasts the treatment of settlers in the unauthorized outpost Mizpe Ya’ir, established next to Khirbet al-‘Id in 1989, partly on private Palestinian-owned land. The outpost was built without a permit, yet has been hooked up to water and electricity, and an access road has even been paved for it – at government expense. The Civil Administration has taken no action to enforce the law in the outpost.
In the nearby villages of Khirbet a-Duqaiqah and Khirbet Susiya, the Civil Administration demolished 14 temporary structures in January and February 2011. As a result, 104 persons, including 50 minors, lost their homes.
B'Tselem calls on the Civil Administration to end its policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in Area C. The Administration must prepare outline plans for the local Palestinian communities that will meet their needs and enable them to build and develop.
* In addition, Israel has demolished 22 houses in East Jerusalem since the beginning of 2011. For details click here.