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West Bank demolitions displace Palestinian families

24 July 2019

More families have been left homeless in the West Bank this week as the Israeli authorities continue their policy of demolishing Palestinian homes and displacing families.

Israeli authorities intended to demolish a total of 13 buildings this week, home to two families including 17 people, of which 11 are minors. Photo: Society of St Yves.

Trócaire condemns these recent demolitions, which are illegal under international law, and fully supports our partners’ efforts to defend the rights of local communities in the village of Sur Baher, Wadi al-Hummus.

The mass demolitions began last Monday, despite exhaustive legal and advocacy efforts from local human-rights organisations, including Trócaire partner the Society of St Yves.

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation and Trócaire partner, has reported that authorities intended to demolish a total of 13 buildings this week, including at least 14 apartments. These buildings were home to two families including 17 people, of which 11 are minors.

Ireland and the EU must take a stand

Trócaire CEO Caoimhe de Barra said: “Demolitions in the village of Sur Baher serve only to undermine the human rights of Palestinians and jeopardise hopes for long-term peace and a two-state solution.

“Reports in Israeli media have detailed how Palestinians have invested their savings in building homes for their families only to see them destroyed.

“Decisions taken in relation to planning in this community are clearly motivated by the Israeli Government’s unjust desire to disconnect Palestinian communities in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“This is yet another example of the need for Ireland and the EU to take a stand against Israeli authorities’ flagrant disregard of international law. We call on the Irish Government to support the Occupied Territories Bill, which is expected to return to the Dáil in the autumn, in order to further the cause of long-term peace.”

Disconnecting the West Bank

The Society of St Yves has represented 11 buildings at various stages before the courts, all with demolition or ‘stop-work orders’ for structures along the perimeter of the Annexation Wall in Sur Baher.

Israeli military have designated a ‘buffer zone’ on both sides of the Annexation Wall – which has been deemed a violation of international law by the International Court of Justice – prohibiting construction in what they claim to be a security measure.

Many of the disputed structures are located in Areas A & B of the West Bank, which are under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Israeli policy in Area C and East Jerusalem completely limits Palestinian construction, causing a severe housing shortage for the city's Palestinian residents, who are forced to build without permits.  

In a 2017 petition to the Israeli Supreme Court through the Society of St Yves it was argued that most of the relevant buildings had been built after receiving building permits from the PA and that the owners and tenants were not aware of an order prohibiting construction in the area.  

Israeli military have designated a ‘buffer zone’ on both sides of the Annexation Wall; the wall has been deemed a violation of international law by the International Court of Justice. Photo: Society of St Yves.

International calls for a halt to demolitions

Last month the Supreme Court ruled that there was no legal barrier to demolishing most of the buildings. The ruling ignored Israel's policy of limiting Palestinian construction in East Jerusalem and the resulting planning problems in the Wadi al-Hummus area.

B’Tselem insist Israel is hiding behind ‘security arguments’ to carry out its illegal policy.

The Society of St Yves made significant efforts to engage decision makers locally and internationally, including UN OCHA and EU state representatives. Lawyers attempted all legal measures to delay the implementation of the demolition orders to provide opportunities for international pressure and intervention.

UN and EU spokespeople have this week urged Israelis authorities to halt the demolitions.