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Israeli forces demolish Palestinian homes in southern Hebron

Feb. 2, 2016 1:11 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 2, 2016 7:12 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- A number of Palestinian dwellings were demolished in the Masafer Yatta area of southern Hebron on Tuesday morning, locals told Ma'an.

Ratib al-Jubour, a spokesperson for a local popular committee, said that "large numbers of Israeli occupation soldiers deployed in Masafer Yatta before bulldozers demolished a number of houses in the Janba, Halawa and al-Tabban areas."

In Janba, Israeli forces demolished a two-room house belonging to Palestinian resident Ahmad Issa Abu Iram, Jubour told Ma'an, adding that forces also confiscated solar panels which the family had been using for energy.

Two other homes, owned by Issa Younis Abu Iram and his brother Jamil, were also destroyed in the area. The structures demolished were reportedly built by a European organization after the families were left homeless during last year’s winter storms, al-Jubour said.

Jubour said that an unspecified number of homes were also destroyed in the Halawa and al-Tabban areas. Most were made of corrugated iron or were tents.

A spokesperson for Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories was not immediately available for comment.

The demolitions came one day after Israeli soldiers entered the area on Monday, took photos of the structures, and notified the families their homes were slated for demolition, al-Jubour told Ma'an.

Israeli watchdog B'Tselem estimated around 40 structures in Janba and Halawa had been marked by Israel's civil administration, adding that demolitions carried out Tuesday in Janba followed the "termination of the arbitration process between the residents and the state."

The Masafer Yatta area, also known as the South Hebron Hills, lies almost entirely in Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and security control since the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Hundreds of Palestinians in Masafter Yatta live in an area declared a military zone by Israel in the 1970's, known as the "918 Firing Zone." Residents were expelled at the time and eventually allowed back following a long court battle, but are under the constant threat of being expelled.

Meanwhile, the presence of around 3,000 Israeli settlers illegally living in the area has meant that local Palestinians have been heavily restricted from building homes and infrastructure over the past decade, according to the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem.

Four Israeli government-sanctioned settlements and at least six unauthorized outposts built in Masafer Yatta since 1981 are connected to an Israeli supplied electricity network, but the majority of Palestinian villages have been refused access to the power lines crisscrossing their land.

The army meanwhile has prevented at least three attempts to connect to the Palestinian Authority supply.

While demolitions in the occupied West Bank decreased by 10 percent in 2015 from the previous year, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 539 Palestinian-owned structures were still demolished, leaving many Palestinians homeless.

The majority were demolished in Area C, on the grounds of lack of building permits, around 20 percent of which were built using humanitarian assistance from international organizations.

"Together with the severe restrictions on access to grazing land, a coercive environment has been created persuading residents to leave," OCHA said.

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