In the midst of an unprecedented health and economic crisis, more Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) lost their homes in the first 10 months of 2020 alone than in any full year since 2016 – the highest year on record since B’Tselem started collecting this data. As a result of Israel’s policy, 798 Palestinians have already lost their homes in 2020, including 404 minors who lived in 218 homes – compared to 677 Palestinians in all of 2019, 397 in 2018 and 521 in 2017.
Israeli authorities also demolished 301 Palestinian non-residential structures and infrastructure facilities in the first ten months of 2020. This includes humanitarian infrastructure such as water cisterns and pipes and electricity grids, which are crucial to sanitation and health at this time.
Entire community demolished yesterday
In addition to all of these, yesterday, 3 November 2020, on the eve of US elections, the Civil Administration came with a military escort, two bulldozers and two diggers to the community of Khirbet Humsah in the northern Jordan Valley. The forces demolished 18 tents and sheds that housed 11 families, numbering 74 people in total, 41 of them minors. The forces also demolished 29 tents and sheds used as livestock enclosures, three storage sheds, nine tents used as kitchens, 10 portable toilets, 10 livestock pens, 23 water containers, two solar panels, and feeding and watering troughs for livestock. They also destroyed more than 30 tons of fodder for livestock and confiscated a vehicle and two tractors belonging to three residents.
In recent years, Israel has introduced military legislation that facilitates its policy of driving Palestinians out of areas in the West Bank to take over the land. According to Civil Administration (CA) data, in the first 10 months of 2020 alone, the CA confiscated 242 prefabs from Palestinians, as opposed to six in all of 2015. In 2019, some 700 tractors and diggers were confiscated and about 7,500 trees uprooted in Area C. The CA even boasts that its figures show a decrease in international aid projects for Palestinians in Area C, such as setting up prefabs and laying infrastructure, to a mere 12 in 2019 compared to 75 in 2015.
While the world deals with the coronavirus crisis, Israel has devoted time and effort to harassing Palestinians instead of helping protected residents living under its control. Israel tries to justify the demolitions with feeble excuses such as “law enforcement” or “building and planning considerations”, while deliberately creating a Kafkaesque reality that leaves Palestinians almost no way to build legally. While Israel has formally given up on annexing the West Bank, the demolition figures indicate that on the ground, reality remains unchanged and the de-facto annexation continues. Israel continues to treat the West Bank as its own – which includes preventing Palestinian development throughout the area (including East Jerusalem) so it can take over more and more land.