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Israeli forces demolish 11 Bedouin residential structures, 87 left homeless

Jan. 2, 2017 3:26 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 3, 2017 10:12 A.M.)
(File)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli bulldozers Monday morning demolished 11 residential structures in the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem.

Dawood Jahalin, secretary of the Fatah movement in Jerusalem's Bedouin communities, told Ma’an that Israeli bulldozers escorted by Israeli forces demolished 11 residential structures without allowing the owners to evacuate personal belongings and furniture.

87 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children, were left homeless as a result of the demolitions.

Jahalin added that Israeli forces imposed a siege on the area and closed its entrances during the demolitions, noting that the same 11 structures, made out of tin sheets and wood, had previously been demolished for the first time in August.

Khan al-Ahmar is one of several Bedouin villages facing forced relocation due to plans by Israeli authorities to build thousands of homes for Jewish-only settlements in the E1 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.

Israeli activity in E1 has attracted widespread international condemnation, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has in the past said that "E1 is a red line that cannot be crossed."

In October, Israeli authorities demolished eight homes in the community. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported at the time that 28 Palestinians, 18 of them minors, were left homeless by the demolitions.

A spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in Palestinian territory, told Ma'an at the time that “enforcement measures” were carried out against “eight illegal structures” belonging to Palestinians near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim -- which, like all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law.

The spokesperson said that the structures were built in 2012 without hard-to-obtain, Israeli-issued building permits.

The spokesperson added that the Israeli Civil Administration had "completed the establishment and development of the foundation in order to arrange the planning status of members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe who reside illegally in Ma'ale Adumim and Route 1.”

“Currently, the program is ready to receive families but the Bedouin population refuses to reach an agreement to regulate the planning status and continues to build illegal structures in the area."

In contradiction to these statements, rights groups and Bedouin community members themselves have sharply criticized Israel's relocation plans for the Bedouin residing near the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, claiming that the removal would displace indigenous Palestinians for the sake of expanding Israeli settlements across the occupied West Bank in violation of international law.

A demolition ordered was issued in August against a school in Khan al-Ahmar, though in late October, the Israeli government postponed its decision regarding the fate of the school.

The school, which was partially funded by an Italian organization and the Italian government, has long been slated for demolition by the Israeli government.

The Israeli NGO Rabbis For Human Rights speculated that they believed Israel was avoiding making a decision as a result of the immense international pressure not to demolish the school, built of mud and tires, which has become one of the most high-profile targets of Israel's massive demolition campaign against Palestinian homes and livelihood structures.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also denounced the forcible transfer of the Bedouins in August, saying that "Israel's systematic violation of international laws is no longer acceptable by the international community."

That same month
, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Palestine Robert Piper warned of a heightened risk of forcible transfer of Bedouins in the occupied West Bank.

Furthermore, Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, although the estimated 550,000 Jewish Israeli settlers are more easily given building permits and allowed to expand their homes and properties.

Nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C -- the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control -- are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally.

Demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have saw an unprecedented surge in 2016, as Israeli authorities demolished 1,081 Palestinian structures as of Dec. 26, with 870 in Area C alone, in a large increase from 531 in all of 2015, according to UN documentation.

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