Housing demolitions on the rise as the ICRC stops providing tents in the Jordan Valley
By Hannah B.
A demolished house in al-Auja (Jordan Valley). Photography (archive) by Gabriel R.
February 15, 2014
Israeli forces demolished yet another Palestinian home in Al-Tur, East Jerusalem, on 10 February after the owner failed to get building permission. The owner, Ali Hassan Al-Juber, was at work at a local school, when Israeli authorities demolished his home, a single caravan, between 9.15 and 9.30 in the morning. Al-Juber received the demolition order in 2009, but had since been attempting to retroactively legalize the structure.
"We�ve tried to open a court case in order to approve our home �I�ve paid over 10,000 shekels but it�s useless � it will never be approved." Al-Juber has 8 children and is now staying at his neighbour�s home next door.
"What can we do, this is the situation, not just for us, but for many Palestinians," said Al-Juber in an interview with the Palestine Monitor on Monday.
On the same day Mohammed Hasan Sawahra, a resident of the Silwan area of Jerusalem, was forced out of his house by "dozens of soldiers and police officers," before his 18 year old home was demolished. Israeli authorities demolished the home because he did not have the required Israeli approved construction permit. Sawahra, like Al-Juber, has filed appeals that are still pending, and has been paying fines to the City Council.
In a third case on Monday, Israeli soldiers demolished the house of Mohammaed Hasan Ja�afra in the Jabal al-Mokabber area of Jerusalem despite the fact that he had paid a 30�000 NIS fine, for building his house without permission from Israeli authorities.
This brings the number of house demolitions in the occupied West Bank to 106 since the start of this year, displacing 179 people, according the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
25 aid organisations condemn the actions of Israel
In 2013, the number of Palestinian homes demolished by the Israeli authorities reached a five-year high, up 43 percent from 2012.
OCHA reported that the total number of buildings destroyed in 2013 was 390, displacing 590 people, significantly higher than the 279 buildings that were demolished a year earlier. (Here you will find a map of house demolitions Jordan valley).
In response, 25 aid agencies, including Christian Aid, Oxfam International and War Child called for "an immediate halt to the demolitions of Palestinian homes, and for Israel to facilitate immediate, full and unimpeded humanitarian access."
Over sixty percent of the West Bank has been designated Area C and falls under full Israeli military and civil control. In Area C, Israeli authorities rarely allow Palestinians to construct houses; OCHA reported that 70% of Palestinian building applications are rejected. Out of necessity, Palestinians are forced to build without permits and subsequently face large fines and frequent demolitions.
Conversely, settlers are encouraged to move to the Jordan Valley, by the Israeli government , which provides extensive benefits to settlers, including cheap housing. Approximately 11,679 settlers live among 58,000 Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, where settlers control 86% of the land in the area, according to Oxfam International.
Under international law, settlers are living in the Jordan Valley illegally. As Israeli�s Prime Minister vows to allow settlers to stay in the Jordan Valley, his army is forcibly removing Palestinians who are living there legally.
Red Cross stops providing tents in the Jordan Valley
The Red Cross has made a decision to stop providing tents to families in the Jordan Valley whose homes have been demolished by Israeli authorities. The move comes in the form of a protest against the Israeli military that has been repeatedly confiscating the tents and stopping them from reaching families who have been evicted from their homes.
"The ICRC had no alternative but to take this decision," said Jon Larsen, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in an interview the Palestine Monitor. Israeli authorities routinely prevented the delivery of the tents since the beginning of last year.
Larsen noted that this was a "difficult decision," and that it will continue to provide other forms of aid. Furthermore, as soon as Israel formally states that it will allow tents to be delivered, the ICRC will continue to pass out tents.
In January alone, the Israeli authorities demolished 27 homes in the Jordan Valley, leaving 147 people homeless, according to statistics from B'Tselem.
"Israel has an obligation under international humanitarian law to provide humanitarian assistance to the people in need in the occupied territory," explained Larsen. Not only does Israel fail to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need, after it has demolished the houses of some of the most vulnerable communities, it also prohibits international NGOs from adequately providing assistance.
Increasing number of house demolitions
There is serious concern among the international community about the increasing number of house demolitions, especially in the Jordan Valley.
"I am deeply concerned about the ongoing displacement and dispossession of Palestinians," said UN coordinator James Rawley released in a statement on 31 January 2014.
Many of the families whose homes are demolished are Bedouins or herder communities that rely on the water resources, climate and land to graze their livestock. Communities are often displaced more than once, and often the Israeli military will destroy entire communities in just one night. Save the Children found that 31% of households in the Jordan Valley have been displaced at least once.
The ICRC highlights that "the destruction and confiscation of private property in occupied territory is prohibited under international humanitarian law."
In 2013, 122 structures that were provided by aid organisations were demolished by Israeli authorities, and 65 items of aid, including tents were confiscated. The end of the distribution of tents in the Jordan Valley will have a huge impact on families whose homes have been destroyed and have nowhere else to go.
Many will be forced to move away from the Jordan Valley to bigger towns in the West Bank. This is a tactic Israel is using to ensure that settlers stay in the area, and Palestinians begin to move away from the territory.
At the end of 2013, Israeli ministers voted to annex the Jordan Valley. The bill, sponsored by Minister of the Knesset Miri Regev, a member of the Lukid party, was supported by eight ministers, all from the Lukid, Yisrael Beytenu or Bayit Yehudi parties. The bill called for Israeli sovereignty to be extended to the Jordan Valley, with Israel annexing a significant part of the West Bank, violating international law. The Jordan Valley, is a strategic border for Israel; former Israeli ambassador to the UN called the area "the frontline of Israel�s defence."
For Palestinian families living in the Jordan Valley, life isn�t easy. With the withdrawal of some vital supplies provided by the ICRC, life will be made even more difficult. Were Israel to annex the Jordan Valley, it is almost certain that Palestinians would be completely forced out of the area.