Israel Demolishes Homes And Schools In Occupied West Bank

Protest in Hebron against the US cut to funding of UNRWA
Protest in Hebron against the US cut to funding of UNRWA

ISRAELI authorities delivered demolition notices and halt of construction orders to several homes and schools in Masafer Yatta in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, on Wednesday.

Coordinator of a local popular committee against the separation wall and settlements, Rateb al-Jbour, said Israeli authorities stormed the Masafer Yatta area and delivered halt of construction orders to several homes belonging to the al-Dababseh family.

Al-Jbour also said that Israeli authorities delivered a demolition notice to a local mixed elementary school that had been previously demolished about four months ago by Israeli forces, however, was rebuilt in the meantime.

Israeli authorities seek to displace Masafer Yatta residents, in order to seize their lands, as part of an Israeli settlement expansion plan in the West Bank. Around 3,000 Israeli settlers live in illegal Jewish-only settlements in the Yatta region, according to the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem.

The South Hebron Hills, known locally as Masafer Yatta, lie almost entirely in Area C, the 62 per cent of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and security control since the 1993 Oslo Accords. Masafer Yatta residents were expelled at the time of the establishment of a firing zone in the 1970s and were eventually allowed back following a long court battle, but are under the constant threat of being expelled or seeing their homes demolished.

  • Israeli bulldozers demolished an under-construction house in the Huwwara village, south of the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus. Ghassan Daghlas, an official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that Israeli forces arrived to the Huwwara village with several bulldozers and began to demolish the under-construction house.

Daghlas confirmed that the demolished house belonged to Muhammad Hassan Damidi and measured 175-square-metres. The demolition was carried out under the pretext of being built without the difficult-to-obtain Israeli permit. Following the 1995 accords, 38% of Huwwara land is defined as Area B, however, the remaining 62% is defined as Area C.

About 282 dunams (69.6 acres) of Huwwara land was seized by Israel for the expansion of the nearby illegal settlement of Yitzhar. Israel uses the pretext of building without a permit to carry out demolitions of Palestinian-owned homes on a regular basis.

Nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally. According to Palestinians and rights groups, Israel’s overall goal, both in its policies in Area C and Israel’s settlement enterprise, is to depopulate the land of its Palestinian residents and replace them with Jewish Israeli communities in order to manipulate population demographics in all of historic Palestine.

  • Israeli forces assaulted a large number of Palestinian workers, on Sunday morning, as they passed through Check-point 300 at the northern entrance of Bethlehem City in the southern occupied West Bank to Jerusalem City. Eyewitnesses said that Israeli forces assaulted a large number of Palestinian workers, who were making their way to work through the checkpoint, causing fainting, suffocation, and bruises among the workers.

The Palestinian workers, who were assaulted, are daily-commuting workers who hold Israeli entry permits. However, they must endure long waits at the Check-point 300, one of the only access points Palestinians from the southern West Bank have to Jerusalem and Israel.

Check-point 300 was built in 2005 two kilometres inside of the Green Line, despite rulings by the International Court of Justice that the separation wall was deemed illegal in 2004. High numbers of Palestinians, especially construction labourers, cross through the check-point every day, facing frequent overcrowding and often waiting for hours in line due to Israeli security measures.

Israel maintains severe restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement through a complex combination of fixed check-points, flying check-points, roads forbidden to Palestinians but open exclusively to Jewish settlers, and various other physical obstructions. At any given time there are about 100 permanent Israeli check-points in the West Bank, while surprise flying check-points often number into the hundreds.

  • The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Pierre Kr henb hl, called, on Tuesday, for a total of US$1.2 billion to fund the Agency’s vital core services and life-saving humanitarian aid for 5.4 million Palestine refugees across the Middle East.

Kr henb hl said, in a statement, that this is the amount needed to keep UNRWA operations at the same level as in 2018. The statement added that the presentation of the Agency’s 2019 priorities and financial requirements comes in the wake of a remarkable global mobilisation to overcome an unprecedented shortfall and existential crisis following the decision by the Agency’s largest donor to cut US$ 300 million of its contribution last year.

Kr henb hl paid a strong tribute to all UNRWA donor partners: ‘As we faced the most severe financial challenge in our proud history, it was both humbling and inspiring to have witnessed the extent and generosity of the response from host and donor governments, from within the United Nations and NGO partners, from civil society and individuals. I wish to convey my heartfelt gratitude for this exemplary commitment and solidarity.’

In 2019, Palestine refugees in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, will continue to face a range of daunting human development and protection challenges. Central to these pressures is the way in which the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territory and the blockade of Gaza dramatically impact the lives of Palestine refugees. The effects of violence, incursions, lack of freedom of movement and employment opportunities, as well as increasing levels of food insecurity and psychological trauma are alarming and expanding. In Syria, the ongoing conflict has many acute consequences for Palestine refugees in the country and beyond, from displacement to loss of livelihoods, as well as the daily struggle to survive the immense adversity imposed by eight years of war.

The Commissioner-General said: ‘One of the greatest concerns for Palestine refugees is the current near complete absence of horizon, both political and personal. In the midst of this, it is essential to preserve the key services carried out by courageous UNRWA staff in some of the most difficult and polarised regions of the Middle East.

‘My call is, therefore, to all our partners to sustain the generous funding levels achieved individually and collectively in 2018. At stake are the dignity and rights of Palestine refugees – in particular the right to education for 535,000 girls and boys – as well as regional stability and the defence of robust multi-lateralism. UNRWA for its part remains fully committed to maintaining its reform-mindedness and financial discipline.’

The statement said that some US$ 750 million will be required to continue the Agency’s core services, which encompass education, health, and relief and social services and contribute to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda.

Furthermore, US$ 138 million will be required to provide emergency humanitarian aid to the oPt (Gaza and West Bank, including East Jerusalem) and US$ 277 million will be required in support of the Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal (in Syria and for Palestine refugees from Syria in Lebanon and Jordan).

Additional funding is required for priority projects, particularly the need for construction projects resulting from conflict (Nahr al-Bared in Lebanon, and Gaza), as well as initiatives designed to complete programme reforms or strengthen programme delivery. Kr henb hl also addressed a message to Palestine refugees and UNRWA staff: ‘During the extreme crisis we faced last year, we promised to show maximum resolve and creativity. We lived up to that commitment and are proud of this.

‘At the same time, we remember that the successful campaign to overcome the shortfall came with a cost. Some services were impacted and some staff members lost their jobs, which we deeply regret. Out of respect for the refugee community and UNRWA staff, we will continue to demonstrate absolute determination in mobilising political and financial support for the Agency.

‘We will also remain very honest about how difficult it will be and the fact that UNRWA will continue to face major challenges. We must remain united and show the cohesion that was such an important part of our success last year.’