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Israeli demolitions leave 28 homeless in Jerusalem-area Bedouin village

Aug. 29, 2016 6:10 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 30, 2016 1:44 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces demolished eight Palestinian structures in the Bedouin community of Maazi Jaba in the controversial E1 zone in the occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem on Monday morning, while residents were also forced to carry out demolitions themselves for three other structures after being ordered to do so by Israeli authorities.

Residents said that bulldozers from the Israeli Jerusalem municipality escorted by soldiers arrived in Maazi Jaba, east of the village of Jaba, at 7:30 a.m. and demolished six improvised shacks serving as homes, as well as two other structures used to house sheep.

The demolitions reportedly left 28 people, including 18 minors under the age of 16, homeless.

A spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed the demolition of the eight structures, saying that five were residential, one was used for animals, and two were external kitchens.

They added that "Israeli forces also forced residents to self-demolish three other structures -- two animal structures and one structure used as a sitting area for guests. In total, 11 structures were demolished."

Many Palestinians are forced to demolish their own homes in order to avoid paying costly demolition fees.

In response to a request for comment, a spokeswoman for Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is responsible for implementing Israeli government policy in the occupied West Bank, told Ma’an that three “illegal structures” were demolished “which were previously destroyed at the same location after the same enforcement measures were issued.”

“The Israeli occupation has escalated demolitions in Bedouin communities east of Jerusalem and everywhere else in attempt to put into effect the settlement project E1,” said Walid Assaf, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, referring to a corridor of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the Jerusalem district of the West Bank.

Assaf added that his commission “immediately” sent teams to document the Israeli “violations” in Maazai Jaba and assess the damages in order to contact partner organizations to try and rebuild the structures as soon as possible.

“The commission will do its best to rebuild all that the (Israeli) occupation demolishes in accordance with the Palestinian leadership’s principles and directives which seek to help citizens stay firm in their lands and foil the occupation’s plans to displace them,” he added.

Maazi Jaba is among a number of Bedouin communities in the hills to the east of Jerusalem and in the central West Bank that are at
risk of forcible transfer due to a “relocation” plan advanced by the Israeli authorities, according to OCHA.

As a result, demolitions are regular occurrence for Bedouins in the occupied West Bank who largely reside in “Area C” -- the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and military control according to the Oslo Accords.

Over 70 percent of Bedouins in the West Bank are refugees, already displaced from their original places of residence in what is now southern Israel during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, according to OCHA, while the majority of Palestinians displaced due to the demolition of their homes in Area C reside in Bedouin communities.

Earlier this month, a demolition order on a primary school in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, also located in the E1 corridor, drew condemnation from the Palestinian government as being the latest excuse “to prevent the advancement of Palestinian communities in Area C.”

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has said that Israel’s pretexts in demolishing so many Palestinian homes constituted “a spurious claim given the absence of any real possibility for Palestinians to build legally in the area.”

According to OCHA, Israel only granted 33 building permits out of 2,020 applications submitted by Palestinians between 2010 and 2014.

The dismal number of permits granted by Israeli authorities has forced many Palestinians to build without permission, at the risk of seeing their homes demolished.

B’Tselem released a report in July revealing that Israeli authorities had demolished more Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank in the first six months of 2016 as they did in all of 2015, in what rights groups argue is a worrying indicator that Israel intends to annex the entirety of Area C.

“The Israeli authorities impose an impossible daily reality on Palestinian communities in Area C,” B’Tselem concluded in its report. “Israel acts to establish facts on the ground and to create a reality that it will be difficult to change in any future agreement.”

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