Israel demolished nearly 80 Palestinian structures in September: Report

Israel demolished nearly 80 Palestinian structures in September: Report
In September, Israel demolished 76 Palestinian owned homes, schools and other vital structures.
3 min read
23 October, 2020
Israeli security forces regularly harass Palestinians in the occupied West Bank [Getty]

Israel seized, destroyed and forced Palestinians to demolish 76 Palestinian-owned structures in the occupied West Bank in September, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

The Palestinian structures were demolished under the premise that they do not have an Israeli permit – one deemed almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain. Israel demolished homes, water and sanitation facilities, and animal shelters.

In a statement issued on 10 September, OCHA's Humanitarian Coordinator for the oPt, James McGoldrick, warned Israel to immediately halt unlawful demolitions, which have “increased the needs and vulnerabilities of Palestinians, who are already trapped in the abnormality of prolonged military occupation.”

Despite the warning, a total of 136 people were displaced as a result of Israeli demolitions, and nearly 300 others had their livelihoods or access to services affected.

Over 30 percent of the structures targeted in September have been dismantled and seized, according to OCHA’s report.

This practice, which has been on the rise in recent years, is based on military regulations allowing the summary requisition - without prior notice - of “newly installed” which the Israeli Civil Administrator defines as “movable”.

Nine structures in the occupied West Bank were demolished on the basis of Military Order 1797, which allows unlicensed structures deemed as “new” to be demolished within 96 hours of an Israeli removal order.

School demolition

The Palestinian Bedouin community of Ras al-Tin in occupied Ramallah is regularly targeted by Israeli forces who are accused of aiming to force its 200 residents out.

Twice in September, Israeli forces dismantled and seized the ceiling of a donor-funded school in this community, alongside building materials, chairs and tables.

The school began operating on 6 September, serving 50 Palestinian children, who previously had to walk five kilometres to reach the nearest school. The entire building is expected to be demolished soon.

Ras al-Tin is located in Area C of the West Bank, where Israel retains near complete control including over matters such as planning and construction.

Construction permits are near impossible to obtain for the some 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C, which constitutes around 60 percent of the occupied West Bank and was established during the Oslo Accords.

Buildings without permits are routinely threatened with demolition by the Israeli authorities, which brand such structures illegal.

Between 2010 and 2014, only 1.5 percent of all Palestinian building permit applications across the occupied West Bank were approved by Israel, according to the United Nations.

The cost of a permit for a single home is estimated to be in the region of $30,000.

The razing of Palestinian homes has been at a four-year high, between March and August 2020, in spite of coronavirus restrictions and health risks, the UN least month. 

"The period from March to August 2020 saw the demolition or confiscation of 389 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, on average, 65 per month, the highest average destruction rate in four years," the UN humanitarian affairs office (UNOCHA) said.

"Sadly, demolitions during the period March-August 2020 left 442 Palestinians homeless, further exposing many to risks associated with the pandemic."

Palestinian citizens of Israel also struggle to acquire planning permission for the construction of homes and other buildings, part of a system that favours Jewish Israelis, Human Rights Watch said earlier this year.

Around 15 to 20 percent of homes in Palestinian-majority towns and villages in Israel are built without permission, according to the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, meaning that as many as 70,000 homes are at risk of demolition.

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