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OCHA: Punitive demolition of Palestinian homes is collective punishment and illegal under international law

Posted On: 06-08-2022 | Politics , Human Rights
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With the punitive demolition of two homes, which is considered collective punishment and illegal under international law, in Qarawat Bani Hassan village in the north of the West Bank on July 25 for Palestinians accused of killing an Israeli settler, Israel has demolished eight Palestinian homes since the beginning of 2022, compared with three in all of 2021 and seven in 2020, according to the biweekly Protection of Civilians Report published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory and covering the period between 19 July and 1 August.

Punitive demolitions are a form of collective punishment and as such are illegal under international law as they target the families of a perpetrator, or alleged perpetrator, said the UN agency.

It said that the Israeli occupation forces raided Qarawat Bani Hassan village and demolished two homes with multiple floors of families whose members were accused of killing an Israeli settlement guard in April. The demolition resulted in damage to three additional neighboring homes and displaced families comprised of 18 people, including 10 children.

According to the OCHA report, the Israeli authorities demolished, confiscated, or forced people to demolish 38 Palestinian-owned structures in East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank during the reporting period, citing the lack of Israeli-issued building permits; two of the structures had been provided as donor-funded humanitarian aid. As a result, 32 people, including 17 children, were displaced, and the livelihoods of about 335 others were affected.

It said that 36 of the targeted structures were in Area C, including one home in the Umm Qussa Bedouin community in southern Hebron, an area which is designated as a ‘firing zone for military training, and where Palestinian communities are at risk of forcible transfer.

Four of the targeted structures in area C were demolished based on Military Order 1797, which provides 96-hour notice and limits the possibility of legally challenging the demolition through Israeli courts. This displaced two households comprising nine people and affected the livelihoods of another three households, comprising 22 people.

A total of 205 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished based on Military Order 1797 since it came into effect in July 2019. Two other structures were demolished in East Jerusalem. Both structures were destroyed by their owners to avoid paying fines.

Also during the reporting period and one day after that, three Palestinians were killed and 19 others were injured by Israeli forces in search-and-arrest operations across the West Bank. Since the beginning of the year, Israeli forces have shot and killed 31 Palestinians, including six children, during search-and-arrest operations in the West Bank.

Also, during the reporting period, Israeli forces conducted 143 search-and-arrest operations and arrested 190 Palestinians in the West Bank. The Hebron governorate accounted for the single highest portion of operations (37) and arrests (57).

In addition, a 59-year-old Palestinian man with a mental disability succumbed to wounds sustained on 26 July when Israeli forces shot him with live ammunition near Huwwara checkpoint, south of Nablus city. According to human rights organizations, the man was shot several times while posing no apparent threat. According to the Israeli military, he was walking toward soldiers and did not stop after they fired “warning” shots. According to an eyewitness, the Palestinian man was walking away from the soldiers before he was shot. The body is still withheld by Israeli authorities.

On 29 July, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed in al Mughayyir village, near Ramallah, by an armed Israeli settler and an Israeli soldier, after a group of armed settlers raided an area where Palestinians were protesting settlement activities. Settlers attacked Palestinians who threw stones and Israeli forces intervened by shooting rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition.

This year, said OCHA, Israeli settlers have more frequently entered Palestinian communities or private properties. When this happens, confrontations often take place between settlers and Palestinians, followed by clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces once the latter intervene.

Since the beginning of the year, three Palestinians, including one child, were killed and 1,214 were injured in such incidents. On a biweekly average, the number of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces following settler raids this year increased by 167 percent compared with the biweekly average of last year.

Overall, 132 Palestinians, including seven children were injured by Israeli forces across the West Bank during the OCHA reporting period.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces restricted the movement of Palestinians in several locations across the West Bank. Forces kept the gate at the main entrance to Kifl Haris, near Salfit closed, following its initial closure on 13 July; blocked with earth-mounds four roads that connect Huwwara town near Nablus with Road 60 and nearby villages. This resulted in long detours, disrupting the access of more than 27,000 Palestinians to livelihoods and services.

In four separate occasions, Israeli forces blocked with earth-mounds the roads that connect Qarawat Bani Hassan and Deir Istiya, west of Salfit with Road 60 and nearby villages; and restricted with a roadblock the access between Bruqin and Kafr al-Dik villages, northwest of Salfit and the access between al-Bowereh area in Hebron city. This resulted in long detours, disrupting the access of more than 11,000 Palestinians to livelihoods and services.

In a separate incident, the Israeli authorities also set up flying checkpoints in Masafer Yatta and installed a new fixed checkpoint with a metal gate in an area declared firing zone by Israeli authorities, blocking the access to Jinba community, impeding the movement of residents and aid workers; the staff of two NGOs was stopped at the checkpoint for several hours and their vehicles were seized.

On 28 July, Israeli settlers, under Israeli forces' escort, moved into an empty Palestinian house in the occupied H2 area of Hebron city. This is the second takeover of a Palestinian home in the H2 area of Hebron city since the beginning of the year. Palestinians near settlements in H2 are exposed to coercive Israeli policies and practices, resulting in many people leaving the area, according to OCHA.

Israeli settlers injured five Palestinians and damaged Palestinian property in 12 instances during the reporting period.

Also on multiple occasions during the reporting period, Israeli settlers marched and erected camping tents in different locations across the West Bank, as part of an initiative to establish new settlements or expand existing ones. Israeli forces subsequently evicted the encampments, saying they were not authorized, while others still remain.

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