2016 ended with a record number of demolitions and seizures of Palestinian structures. According to the Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) nearly 1,110 structures were targeted last year. However, 2017 has not begun better, only during January 2017 140 structures were demolished or seized. That represents an increase of a 50 per cent, in relation to the monthly average in 2016. Structures in the West Bank are demolished mostly on the grounds of lack of permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain.
On February 1st the Israeli authorities implemented an old court ruling ordering the evacuation of the Amona outpost, built on Palestinian privately owned land. This evacuation was followed by the announcement of the construction approval of another 3,000 homes in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, punitive demolitions and collective punishment, illegal under international law, are still ongoing. The residents from the Jabal al Mukabber area in Jerusalem are denouncing the measures taken by the Israeli authorities after the truck attack of one of its neighbours. The man drove a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing 4 and injuring another 15. The Israeli authorities are threatening neighbours of the attacker, shot and killed on the spot, with demolitions, cancellation of family reunification permits and punitive demolitions of the perpetrator´s family house.
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CASE ANALYSIS: UMM AL HIRAN AND THE UNRECONISED VILLAGES.
Umm al Hiran is a Bedouin village located in the Naqab (Negev) desert.
In 2015, after a 15 years’ litigation process, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the entire village could be demolished and its residents forcibly displaced, arguing that it was built on State land and therefore, the State could retake it whenever it wished.
Following the decision, the human rights NGO Adalah launched the campaign #Save_UmAlHiran for creating “awareness of the village’s struggle and demand the cancellation of the demolition and eviction orders against the residents”
Umm al Hiran and its 1,000 residents are part of the 160,000 Bedouins who live in these “unrecognised villages”. The State of Israel refuses to recognise those villages, arguing that the Bedouin is a nomad community and have no rights over the land, despite some of them are historical villages that existed even before the creation of the State of Israel. Since they are not recognised by the Government, they cannot enjoy any public services, they do not have access to any public infrastructure and are not taken into account within any municipal jurisdiction. Most of them, such as Umm al Hiran, are under the risk of total demolition.
On January 18th a large number of police forces arrived to Umm al Hiran to implement the demolition orders. During the operation, the police shot and killed Mr. Ya’akub Musa Abu Al-Qi’an, a 50-year-old math teacher from the village. Whilst the police claims that Abu Al-Qi´an was shot because he tried to ram them over video footage probes that, actually, his car was shot multiple times as he was driving slowly along the road.
Adalah added that according to witnesses “police officers prevented an ambulance from approaching the scene and paramedics from treating Abu Al-Qi’an for three hours following the shooting”. Ahmad Odeh, Member of the Knesset (MK) from the Arab Joint List was also injured on his head and back during the evacuation. Mr. Odeh called for an independent inquiry “to uncover the lies of Netanyahu, Erdan and the police”.
As expressed by Suhad Bishara, lawyer with Adalah, the situation of Umm al Hiran and the unrecognised villages at the Naqab, represent the ongoing Nakba of the Palestinian minorities inside Israel.
“For these families, it is like seeing the Nakba being replayed,” Bishara said. “They were made homeless so Jews could live in their place in the 1950s, and now the same thing is happening all over again.”
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