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Israel dismantles EU-funded homes in Jerusalem-area Bedouin neighborhood

May 16, 2016 1:25 P.M. (Updated: May 17, 2016 3:30 P.M.)
Palestinian Bedouin homes destroyed by Israel on Jan. 21, 2016 (MaanImages, File)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Some 90 Palestinian Bedouins, the majority of them children, were left homeless on Monday when Israeli forces disassembled EU-donated mobile homes without giving prior notice in the Jabal al-Baba neighborhood in the outskirts of the village of al-Eizariya east of Jerusalem.

Atallah Mazaraa, a representative of Jabal al-Baba, told Ma’an that Israeli forces began dismantling eight mobile homes after Israeli forces and Israeli Civil Administration officers stormed the area at 5 a.m., evacuating the families living inside them.

The majority of family members living in the caravans were children, Mazaraa said.

The mobile homes belonged to Abdullah Mazaraa, Khadijah Mazaraa, Muhammad Hasan Mazaraa, Hasan Muhammad Mazaraa, Ahmad Muhammad Jahalin, Mahmoud Muhammad Jahalin, Hussein Mazaraa, and Adnan Khamis Mazaraa.

Mazaraa added that in addition to the eight already dismantled structures, Israeli forces continued to disassemble other caravans. Each structure measured 80 square meters.

Dawood Jahalin, who chairs a local committee representing the Abu Nuwwar community in Jabal al-Baba, also confirmed to Ma’an that mobile homes belonging to his community were being disassembled.

Israeli forces first raided the area on Sunday and took photos of the structures, according to Mazaraa.

He highlighted that the school children in the community were preparing for final exams and “were in very bad state of mind,” as they knew they would have to study for the coming exams while homeless.

A statement later released by Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said: “enforcement steps were carried out against seven mobile homes and parts of structures that were illegally built in the last few days without permits.”

The statement added that the Israeli Civil Administration, which is part of COGAT, “provided proper housing options with the appropriate infrastructure for legal structures for the Bedouin population living illegally in Ras Azaria,” using another name for al-Eizariya.

“When the Israeli authorities disassemble and confiscate our houses without prior notice on the Nakba’s anniversary,” Mazarra said, their message to the Bedouin communities is: “We will chase you wherever you go and you will not have a moment of security or rest.”

“Our message to the Israeli occupation is that we will remain firm in our lands and counter all your plans to confiscate Jabal al-Baba to turn it into an Israeli settlement.”

Mazaraa added that the Bedouin communities have been settled in Jabal al-Baba since they were forcibly displaced from their villages in Beer al-Sabi (Beersheba in Hebrew) during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

COGAT released its statement on Monday’s incident accompanied by a promotional video for a new project for a “legal alternative” for “Bedouins residing in illegal buildings.”

Under the proposed project, the community would be moved to “a nearby location,” at a maximum distance of one kilometer away from their original lands. Some 200 families were “successfully” relocated to a similar project in 1990s, the video added.

Jad Isaac of the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ) told Ma’an that Israel’s proposed relocation plan was an attempt to “de-Palestinize” the greater Jerusalem area in order to make room for the illegal Israeli Maale Adumim settlement bloc, and continue the process of ethnic displacement in the E1 settlement corridor.

“(Israel) tried to do this in the Negev and it failed. We don't want the better infrastructure (one kilometer away) -- why couldn’t they provide the proper infrastructure there, where people have been living for decades?” Isaac said.

In January, three EU-donated housing structures in Jabal al-Baba were destroyed, displacing 17 Palestinians, half of them children.

Mazaraa said at the time that the whole area, which counts some 300 people, were being threatened with demolition.

Following the incident, the EU reportedly announced it would seek compensation for the demolished structures.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah condemned Israel for demolishing the homes as “an apparent retaliation” for a November ruling by the EU that said products made in Israel’s illegal settlements could no longer be labeled "Made in Israel," and would instead have to indicate their origin in occupied territory.

Jabal al-Baba is one of several Bedouin villages facing repeated demolitions due to plans by Israeli authorities to build thousands of homes for Jewish-only settlements in the E1 corridor.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to suspend work on the housing units in 2013, settlement watchdog Peace Now reported in January that the Ministry of Housing has "quietly" continued planning 8,372 homes in the corridor.

Settlement construction in E1 would effectively divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state -- as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict -- almost impossible.

Lily Leach contributed reporting from Bethlehem.
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