Immediately halt the forced eviction of over 1,000 West Bank residents and stop the demolitions of Bedouin homes in the Negev/Naqab
Israeli authorities must immediately end the forced eviction of more than 1,000 residents of Masafer Yatta, a Palestinian community in the occupied West Bank, Amnesty International said today, after weeks of Israeli military harassment in several times of the inhabitants of the area, demolished houses and imposed restrictions on freedom of movement. Inside Israel, the authorities must recognize the right to housing of the Palestinian Bedouin citizens of the Negev/Naqab desert, who saw their village, al-‘Araqib, demolished again this morning, Tuesday July 19th.
In recent weeks, communities in Masafer Yatta have been hit by waves of demolitions according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). A campaign of intimidation by the Israeli authorities has sought to create unbearable living conditions that force residents to leave. Roadblocks and other movement restrictions have also prevented residents from celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha with their extended families in the nearby town of Yatta. On May 11 and June 1, the Israeli army destroyed the homes of dozens of residents, some of whom had suffered a third home demolition in the past 12 months.
About 1,150 Palestinians currently live in Masafer Yatta, including 569 children, in more than 200 houses, according to OCHA. Living conditions are dire, with residents almost entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. Israeli authorities have issued orders to demolish or halt the construction of almost all houses, animal shelters, cisterns and community infrastructure in the area, on the grounds that they were built without permits, which are almost impossible to obtain.
“More than 1,000 Palestinians in Masafer Yatta, including around 500 children, are bracing for the potential arrival of Israeli bulldozers that would demolish their homes, solar panels and animal enclosures. To continue with this large-scale deportation would amount to an act of forcible transfer, which is a war crime and a crime against humanity,” said Heba Morayef, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. .
“The impending displacement of Masafer Yatta’s Palestinians offers a stark reminder of the cruel strategy Israel has used for decades to maintain its cruel system of apartheid over the Palestinians.”
Amnesty International is concerned that the housing rights of Bedouin citizens in Israel are not respected and that they face discrimination with regard to other economic, social and cultural rights as well, a policy aimed at maintaining the Israeli system of oppression and domination over the Palestinians. Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel have suffered the repeated demolition of their homes as a result of discriminatory policies that do not recognize the legality of some 35 villages in the Negev/Naqab region. For example, since 2010 authorities have repeatedly demolished all the houses in the village of al-‘Araqib, subjecting some 250 people to forced evictions that left them homeless as they were relocated to shacks in other villages or in the residences of parents in neighboring villages. Bedouin commune. Israeli government plans to “regulate” Bedouin construction in the Negev/Naqab have led to the forced eviction of hundreds of members of this minority, and tens of thousands more are at risk.
“Instead of demolishing homes, Israeli authorities should dismantle discriminatory planning and building policies that have put Bedouin citizens in the absurd position of being branded as trespassers on their own lands,” said Heba Morayef.
Expelled from his ancestral lands in Masafer Yatta
On May 4, 2022, Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) dismissed several petitions from residents of eight villages in Masafer Yatta who sought to have the eviction orders stopped. As a result, homes and animal shelters are now being demolished, forcing residents off their ancestral lands to allow for military training in the area.
In 1980, the Israeli military designated the 3,000-hectare area as “Range 918”, a restricted military area to be used for training exercises. In November 1999, the army evicted all residents of Masafer Yatta, but an interim injunction issued by the HCJ in March 2000 allowed them to return pending a final decision and on the condition that they not return not their homes. Since then, residents have been denied permission even to install solar panels or water cisterns.
On June 16, the Israeli army began carrying out military training in the area, which was only temporarily halted during a three-day visit by US President Joe Biden.
The HCJ based its decision on its erroneous conclusion that Israeli military orders take precedence over international law, which demonstrates the need to enforce international justice mechanisms.
“The HCJ’s decision to uphold Masafer Yatta’s deportation highlights the complicity of Israeli courts in maintaining apartheid and perpetuating grave violations against Palestinians living under occupation. This shows the urgency of an investigation by the International Criminal Court into war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Every day that accountability is delayed, more and more Palestinians lose their homes, their livelihoods and the hope of a dignified life,” said Heba Morayef.
Israel has systematically designated large swathes of Palestinian land as military zones, state lands, archaeological sites or national parks in order to maximize control over Palestinian lands both in Israel and the OPT. These arbitrary classifications are key elements of Israel’s institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination of Palestinians. Moreover, a recent investigation of classified documents dating back to 1979 revealed that Israel’s creation of “firing zones” in the OPT, which cover around 20% of the occupied West Bank, was “for the sole purpose of eventually handing over the land to Israeli settlers.
Masafer Yatta comprises 19 traditional villages and hamlets, eight of which are under imminent threat of demolition and displacement. The villages are located on the South Hebron Hills in Area C of the occupied West Bank. Area C covers 60% of the West Bank, but the Israeli authorities retain exclusive control over the planning and zoning of the area.
Across Israel and the OPT, Israel’s state-sanctioned discriminatory policies and practices have forcibly displaced Palestinian communities for decades. Such policies were deliberately designed to minimize Palestinian access to and control over strategic lands while seeking to maintain Israeli Jewish dominance.
Other Palestinian communities in the southern Hebron Hills and the Jordan Valley, a strategic area for Israeli settlement expansion and encroaching annexation, are also targeted by threats of forcible transfer. Last July, one such community, the herding hamlet of Khirbet Humsa, was completely wiped off the map by Israeli bulldozers.
Across the Green Line in Israel, 35 “unrecognized” Palestinian Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab are also at risk of being demolished by Israeli authorities in a blatant example of racial segregation. They do not appear on Israeli zoning and planning maps and, therefore, are considered illegal, with Israeli authorities refusing to connect them to essential services, including electricity and water. Ras Jrabah is one such village whose 500 residents are at risk of being forcibly relocated due to Israeli authorities’ plans to demolish it to allow for the expansion of Dimona, a town inhabited mainly by Jewish Israelis.
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