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UN warns of a heightened risk of forcible transfers of Bedouins in the West Bank

Aug. 24, 2016 9:39 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 24, 2016 7:12 P.M.)
A Palestinian Bedouin woman stands next to her destroyed tent in the village of Atouf in the Jordan Valley (AFP/Saif Dahlah, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Palestine warned in a statement on Tuesday of a heightened risk of the forcible transfer of Bedouins in the occupied West Bank.

Robert Piper warned of the risks of forcible transfer after visiting the Bedouin community of Abu Nuwwar in the Jerusalem governorate southwest of the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim.

Abu Nuwwar 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.

The statement highlighted that last week Israeli authorities displaced 64 Palestinians, including 24 children, after demolishing 29 structures in eight locations, adding that Israeli forces have also destroyed or confiscated 85 civilian structures in 28 communities in the West Bank since the start of this month, leaving 129 Palestinians homeless and impacting the livelihoods of at least 2,100 Palestinians.

“Among the 85 recently-destroyed or confiscated structures, 24 had been provided by donors as emergency relief, including emergency shelters following previous home demolitions, animal sheds, latrines, a community center and a new drinking water network, the latter supported by UNICEF,” the statement read.

The demolitions also affected almost 1,000 Bedouin Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley who the statement highlight already suffer from extreme water scarcity. The statement also expressed concern over the situation in Susiya in the southern West Bank where Israeli authorities have made moves to destroy the entire village.

“Repeated rounds of demolitions, restrictions on access to basic services and regular visits by Israeli security personnel promoting ‘relocation plans’ are all part of a coercive environment that now surrounds these vulnerable Palestinian households,” Piper was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The cumulative pressure to move to other parts of the West Bank continues to be ratcheted-up; in this environment we cannot expect people to make decisions based on genuine consent so the risk of forcible transfers remains high.”

The statement stressed Israel’s legal obligations as the occupying power under international law, including providing for the basic needs of Palestinians and ensuring a fair “planning and zoning regime.”

There has been a surge in demolitions and confiscations across the West Bank this year with 786 Palestinian-owned structures demolished so far in 2016. These demolitions have cumulatively displaced 1,197 people, including 558 children. Over 200 of the demolished structures had been provided as humanitarian relief.

“Dkaika, Khan al Ahmar, Umm al-Kheir, Abu Nuwwar, Susiya… these are just some of the highly vulnerable communities where families, many of whom are Palestine refugees, live in permanent fear of becoming homeless and children wonder if they will still have a school to attend tomorrow,” Piper added.

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."

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

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