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Israel demolishes Palestinian homes in Nablus-area 'firing zone'

Feb. 9, 2016 12:58 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 9, 2016 10:03 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces on Tuesday demolished more than 10 Palestinian homes and structures in the village of Khirbet Tana east of Nablus, where residents have lived in an area declared as an Israeli military “firing zone” for decades.

Ghassan Daghlas, a PA official who monitors settlement activity, told Ma'an that Israeli bulldozers demolished the structures claiming they were built illegally, adding that the forces had notified several Palestinians in the nearby Beita village of the demolition orders over the past two days.

A spokesperson for Israel's Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told Ma’an that “enforcement steps were taken against five buildings and six tents which were built illegally without permits in firing zone 904A.”

The spokesperson said that permits were not issued for the structures “since housing in firing zone is a life danger.”

Khirbet Tana, located east of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, is home to some 300 Palestinians who belong to a herding community and have lived in the area for decades.

Some of the community's residents stay the nearby town of Beita and reside in Khirbet Tana seasonally in order to make a living farming and herding sheep and cattle, according to Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

Israel declared the village a “closed military and firing zone” in the 1970s, and the Civil Administration -- Israel’s administrative body in the military-occupied West Bank -- has carried out demolitions in the community since.

Khirbet Tana is part of around 20 percent of the occupied West Bank that has been declared a “closed military zone” by Israeli authorities, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

The use of “closed military zones” is frequently used by Israeli authorities to push Palestinians from their land and effectively provides “legal” ground to displace Palestinians.

In 2010, some 65 percent of demolitions carried out in Area C -- the majority of the West Bank under full Israeli military control -- occurred in “firing zones.”

Israel’s Civil Administration demolished all of the structures in Khirbet Tana in 2011, leaving 152 Palestinian residents homeless, including 64 children, according to B’Tselem.

At the time, it was the sixth time the village had faced demolition since 2005.

The European Union on Saturday slammed Israel for its continuation of demolitions and settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The EU said at the time that news of recent demolitions was "particularly concerning both because of the extent of the demolitions and also the number of vulnerable individuals affected, including children who need support," adding that a number of the "demolitions included EU-funded structures."

At least 85 structures were destroyed in the West Bank in January, displacing 105 Palestinians, according to UNOCHA.
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