Home Demolitions And Land Seizures Are Israeli Policy For Occupied Territories

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THE Israeli army on Wednesday notified the demolition of two houses in Hebron and took measurements of another belonging to the families of three Palestinians suspected of carrying out stabbing attacks against Israeli settlers, according to local sources.

Israeli troops stormed the village of Tarusa, southwest of Hebron, and notified the family of Rami Masalmeh, who is currently incarcerated in Israeli jails, about their intention to demolish their home. Israel accuses Masalmeh of stabbing and injuring Israelis in Tel Aviv.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli soldiers broke into the village of Beit Amra near the town of Yatta, south of Hebron, and raided the house of Badr Id’es, the father of Morad Id’es, whom Israel claims was behind the stabbing and killing of an Israeli settler outside the illegal Otniel settlement last Friday.

Army officers reportedly interrogated family members and ordered them to leave, as a prelude to demolish the house as a collective punishment for the settler’s killing. The army did not inform the family about the actual demolition date.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops broke into the village of Hendaza, east of Bethlehem, and raided the house of Mohammad Kamel Sha’lan, whom the occupation authorities claim was behind the stabbing and injury of an Israeli settler in Takou settlement, nearby, three days ago. Soldiers took measurements of the house, in an apparent prelude to demolishing it as a collective punishment against the family of Sha’lan.

Following the said incidents, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he ‘would not hesitate to bar the entrance of Palestinians to Israeli settlements’, as part of what he described as ‘Israel’s fight against the recent wave of terrorism,’ according to the Israeli daily, Haaretz.

Speaking during a Knesset plenary session, the Israeli PM said that the ‘government is taking unprecedented measures against terrorism’. Israeli army forces on Wednesday tore down two tents used as shelters by Palestinian families living east of Yatta, to the south of Hebron in the West Bank.

The Popular Committee Coordinator in Yatta, Rateb al-Jabour said Israeli soldiers raided Susiya locale east of Yatta, in which about 350 people live, and tore down two tents used as shelters by the family of Naser Shretih.

The village of Susiya has become the focus of an international campaign, attracting European diplomats, officials, US state department and pro-Palestinian activists after the Israeli High Court denied a Palestinian request for an injunction to stop Israel’s plans to destroy their homes in May 2014.

For years, Palestinians in Susiya suffered greatly under the Israeli occupation. In 1986, Israeli authorities expelled the families living in Susiya after nearby archaeological ruins were declared a national archaeological park.

After being expelled, the families settled on their land, located between the archaeological site and the Israeli settlement of Susiya, until 2001 when the Israeli army returned and destroyed their homes and their wells and expelled them once again.

They appealed to the Israeli High Court, which gave them a temporary injunction order allowing them to return temporarily to their land. After the order was annulled in 2007, Susiya’s families appealed to the High Court to claim rights to their land. Haaretz reported that, ‘Thousands of Palestinian labourers were banned on Tuesday from entering Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The order, issued by the IDF commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, did not apply to industrial parks in the West Bank.’

Israel recently resumed the policy of punitive demolitions of the homes of any Palestinians – as means of deterrence – accused of being involved in attacks against Israelis, a policy that Israel does not use against Israeli settlers who were involved in fatal attacks against Palestinians.

This policy was widely slammed by human rights organisations as ‘collective punishment’ and ‘a war crime and a crime against humanity’. B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, says: ‘The people who bear the brunt of the punitive demolitions are relatives – including women, the elderly, and children – whom Israel does not suspect of involvement in any offence.’

‘In the vast majority of cases, the person whose actions prompted the demolition was not even living in the house at the time of the demolition,’ adds the group. The official objective of the house demolition policy is deterrence … yet the deterrent effect of house demolitions has never been proven.’

It said that, ‘Since this constitutes deliberate harm to innocents, it is clear that even if house demolition had the desired deterrent effect, it would, nevertheless, remain unlawful.’

• Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat on Wednesday deplored Israeli Prime Minister’s Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to seize 1,500 dunums under the authority of the Jericho and Jordan Valley governorate and label it as state property. Described as the largest seizure scheme in two years, Erekat affirmed that the Palestinian leadership will submit the settlement activities file to the Security Council very soon.

Erekat visited the targeted area along with dozens of international, Arab and Palestinian journalists to brief them on what he called an example of ‘Apartheid’.

He said the decision comes as a response to the conclusions of the Council of the European Union and Human Rights Watch’s report.

‘All these parties demanded Netanyahu end settlement activities, the policy of collective punishment, home demolitions and Bedouins’ forced displacement, but he chose to respond with another demolition in Silwan and Beit Hanina and seizure of thousands of dunums in Jericho under the watchful eye of the world,’ he said.

‘Instead of abiding by the international willpower, Netanyahu continues his policy of deception and fraud. He announced that Palestinians and settlers are subject to the same law, which is an unashamed insult to the international community that observes the occupation’s actions and realises the danger of Apartheid on the Two-State solution and the entire region.’

According to Erekat, 45% of Jericho and the Jordan Valley’s lands are considered closed security zones, with 16% allocated to settlement activities and only 8% to Palestinians. In this area, Israel maintains some of the largest dates and turkey farms as well as huge artificial ponds to breed crocodiles, which provide revenue of over $500 million every year to support 5,000 settlers, he said.

‘The largest racist and colonial Apartheid regime is found here and it must be stopped before it is too late.’ Erekat once again welcomed the conclusions of the Council of the European Union, and reiterated that settlement activities are illegal. He called on world countries to hold Netanyahu accountable and his racist government.