Israeli authorities raze land and demolish housing!

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ISRAELI authorities on Thursday razed land and demolished a greenhouse and water well in Beit Ula, a village located northwest of Hebron, according to local sources.

Essa Amleh, coordinator of the Anti-Settlement Commission in the village, told WAFA that Israeli troops accompanied by heavy machinery broke into the village and razed the said land for the second time.

The army also demolished a 70-square-metre greenhouse, a water well and a rainwater tank. The area where the razing and demolition took place is located near the Israeli segregation wall, which separates parts of the West Bank from Israel. It is also located in Area C of the occupied West Bank, under complete Israeli control.

Area C makes up 60% of the area of the West Bank, which was temporarily divided into three parts – A, B and C – under the 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, signed by Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Today, nearly 300,000 Palestinians live in Area C, while nearly 360,000 Jewish settlers live in 135 settlements and 100 settlement outposts, which are illegal under international law.

According to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), between 1988 and 2014, Israel’s Civil Administration, the governing body that operates in the West Bank, issued 14,000 demolition orders, of which more than 11,000 are still outstanding and could result in the demolition of up to 13,000 structures owned by Palestinians in Area C, including houses, sheds and animal shelters.

The report found that the planning and zoning regime applied by the Israeli authorities, including the way land is allocated, ‘made it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in most of Area C’.

• Israeli bulldozers demolished three housing structures belonging to Palestinian Bedouins in Jerusalem district on Thursday, displacing 17 Palestinians, half of them children. Israeli bulldozers escorted by Israeli forces raided and surrounded the Jabal al-Baba neighbourhood of the village of al-Eizariya, forcibly evacuated residents, and demolished the houses.

Jabal al-Baba representative Atallah Mazaraa said that the demolition was sudden and without prior notice, adding that an Israeli court had frozen all demolition orders in the area around a year ago.

Mazaraa said that he and the residents were held at gunpoint for hours while the demolition took place, causing fear and panic among the children present. Mazaraa said the three demolished homes belonged to Hamda Muhammad Odeh Abu Kutaiba, her son, Ali Abu Kutaiba, and Ghassan Jahalin. The families’ furniture and possessions were still inside when the housing structures were destroyed.

Ali Abu Kutaiba and Jahalin had been living with their families in mobile homes donated by the European Union. Mazaraa said the EU-donated structures could have easily been taken apart instead of demolished. Israeli forces also levelled the lands on which the houses were standing in order to prevent any attempts at reconstruction, he added.

COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry unit in charge of civil administration in the Palestinian territories, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mazaraa said the whole Jabal al-Baba area, which counts some 300 people, was being threatened with demolition.

Jabal al-Baba is one of several Bedouin villages facing repeated demolition due to plans by Israeli authorities to build thousands of homes for Jewish-only settlements in the E1 corridor.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to suspend work on the housing units in 2013, settlement watchdog Peace Now reported last week that the Ministry of Housing has ‘quietly’ continued planning 8,372 homes in the corridor.

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.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah slammed the displacement of Palestinian Bedouin communities near Jerusalem in a press release on Wednesday, saying that Israel’s systematic violation of international laws is no longer acceptable by the international community.

• Israel is moving to declare 150 hectares in the occupied West Bank as state land in what would be the largest such seizure since 2014, officials and media reports said on Wednesday. If approved, the move is likely to draw international condemnation in line with previous seizures.

The farmland is said to be located in the Jordan Valley south of Jericho and, according to settlement watchdog Peace Now, would mark the biggest declaration since a seizure of 400 hectares in 2014.

The Israeli defence ministry unit that oversees civilian affairs in the West Bank, known as COGAT, said in a statement that ‘the lands are in the final stages to be declared as state lands.’

It did not provide further details, including who was considered the current owner. Peace Now said the land had been taken over by Israeli settlers years ago for farming.

Israeli media reported that the land amounted to 150 hectares (370 acres) and said it was north of the Israeli settlement of Almog.

Previous seizures have been harshly criticised by Palestinians, rights groups and much of the international community. Such moves erode the territory Palestinians see as part of their future state, further complicating peace efforts. ‘Continued land confiscation by the (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu government is a diplomatic catastrophe,’ Peace Now said in a statement.

‘The government’s decision is another step on the way to destroying the possibility for a two-state solution.’ Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon’s office declined comment. Israel faced international condemnation after the 2014 seizure near Bethlehem in the area of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. The move followed the killing of three Israeli teenagers snatched from a roadside in the same area.

Netanyahu’s government has faced pressure from settlers and right-wing members of his cabinet over a wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks that erupted in October. The fatal stabbing of an Israeli woman at the entrance to her home in a West Bank settlement on Sunday, allegedly by a Palestinian teenager, drew Israeli outrage and calls for action.

• Israeli forces on Thursday morning opened fire at Palestinian farmers to the east of Gaza city, reported WAFA correspondent. Israeli Soldiers stationed at watchtowers in Nahal Oz military base, east of Gaza city, opened heavy gunfire at a number of Palestinian farmers as they approached their farmlands, forcing them to retreat.

This came several hours after a Palestinian man was shot and injured by Israeli forces in the foot to the southeast of Gaza city. The man, who remains unidentified, was rushed into al-Shifa Hospital, where medics described his injury as moderate.

The Israeli army opens fire routinely at Palestinian fishermen and farmlands along the Gaza border, clearly violating a ceasefire deal reached between Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza.

Israel has imposed a tightened blockade since 2007 after Hamas won the democratic legislative elections and took over power in the strip. The Gaza tightened blockade has been widely criticised by United Nations’ organisations and Israeli Palestinian human rights organisations.