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Third of Palestinian village left homeless by demolitions this year

March 25, 2016 7:29 P.M. (Updated: March 28, 2016 10:57 P.M.)
A Palestinian Bedouin woman stands next to her destroyed tent in the village of Atouf in the Jordan Valley. (AFP/Saif Dahlah, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Mass Israeli demolitions in the Jordan Valley village of Khirbet Tana have left more than a third of its Palestinian residents homeless since the beginning of the year, the UN said Friday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 87 of the village's 250 residents, including 35 children, had lost their homes in three separate demolitions since January.

The demolitions are part of one of the most extensive demolition campaigns in the occupied West Bank in the last seven years, which has left a total of more than 650 Palestinians homeless in less than three months, more than half of whom were children, OCHA said.

"These demolitions generate a coercive environment, exacerbating residents' risk of forcible transfer, prohibited by international humanitarian law," the body said.

In Khirbet Tana, 53 structures have been destroyed, including 22 homes, 19 animal shelters, six latrine units, five traditional ovens, and a water reservoir.

The UN body said 18 of these structures had been donated as humanitarian aid by the international community, the majority after demolitions were carried out earlier this year.

Half of all Israeli demolitions across the occupied West Bank this year have taken place in areas declared by Israel as "firing zones," or restricted military areas, which OCHA said constitute nearly 20 percent of the occupied West Bank.

Khirbet Tana is located in "Firing Zone 904A," in a part of the Jordan Valley that rights groups say Israel intends to fully annex.

Thousands of Bedouins, who have lived there for decades, face the threat of forced displacement, a threat that rights groups say has become more acute in recent years, particularly with large numbers of resident forced to flee during Israeli military training exercises.

Israel's Civil Administration demolished all structures in Khirbet Tana in 2012, leaving 152 Palestinian residents homeless, including 64 children, according to Israeli rights groups B'Tselem.

That was the fifth wave of demolitions the village had faced since 2005.

Israel's Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories previously told Ma'an the demolitions were carried out in the village because they were built illegally and were endangered due to their situation inside the firing zone.

However, OCHA noted two illegal Israeli settlement outposts -- recently established and built in the same firing zone -- where the Israeli authorities have not carried out any demolitions, despite issuing demolition orders.
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