THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY must take action to stop systematic and deliberate housing demolition and sealing, arbitrary displacement and forced evictions of Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank, UN experts said in a statement released on 13 February.
In the month of January 2023 alone, Israeli authorities reportedly demolished 132 Palestinian structures across 38 communities in the occupied West Bank, including 34 residential and 15 donor-funded structures. This figure represents a 135 per cent increase, compared to the same period in 2022 and includes five punitive demolitions.
“The systematic demolition of Palestinian homes, erection of illegal Israeli settlements and systematic denial of building permits for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank amounts to ‘domicide’ “, said the experts.
The experts reiterated their concern over the situation in Masafer Yatta, where over 1,100 Palestinian residents remain at imminent risk of forced eviction, arbitrary displacement and demolitions of their homes, livelihood, water and sanitation structures. In November 2022, Israeli authorities demolished a donor-funded school in Isfey al Fauqa. Four other schools in the area are under demolition orders.
“Direct attacks on the Palestinian people’s homes, schools, livelihoods and water sources are nothing but Israel’s attempts to curtail the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and to threaten their very existence”, the experts said.
“Israel’s tactics of forcibly displacing and evicting the Palestinian population appear to have no limits. In occupied East Jerusalem, tens of Palestinian families also face imminent risks of forced evictions and displacement, due to discriminatory zoning and planning regimes that favour Israeli settlement expansion – the act that is illegal under international law and amounts to a war crime.”
The experts also expressed alarm at the Israeli Government’s endorsement and escalated practice of punitive evictions and demolitions, and other punitive measures applied to alleged perpetrators of “terrorist” attacks and their family members, such as revoking identity documents, citizenship and residency rights and social security benefits.
On 29 January, Israeli authorities announced measures to immediately seal off family homes of those suspected of carrying out the attacks on 27 and 28 January in occupied East Jerusalem, including the attack in the Neve Yacoub settlement on 27 January which killed at least seven Israelis. Two families of the alleged attackers were forcibly evicted from their homes, and more than 40 people, including family members, were reportedly arrested in relation to the attacks.
“The rule of law must prevail in any State action against acts of violence. The sealing of family homes of suspected offenders and the subsequent demolition of their homes is in fundamental disrespect of international human rights norms and the rule of law. Such acts amount to collective punishment which is strictly prohibited under international law”, the experts said.
They continued: “We regret that impunity prevails, in particular for human rights violations and potential war crimes committed by the occupying power. It is high time for international adjudication bodies to determine the nature of the Israeli occupation and seek justice and accountability for all crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory,”
The experts have repeatedly raised concerns with the Government of Israel on these issues. No response has been received to date.