BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- At least five Palestinians were hurt when Israeli soldiers fired a tear gas canister into a home while carrying out demolitions in the village of al-Auja in the occupied West Bank district of Jericho on Monday, locals told Ma’an.
Members of the Sitta family said that Israeli forces started destroying a building under construction and started firing tear gas to disperse Palestinians protesting the demolitions.
One tear gas canister was fired into the Sitta family home, causing five family members to suffocate, relatives said. Three family members were lightly affected, one was in moderate condition, and a middle-aged man was in serious condition and was evacuated to the hospital.
A spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma'an that Israeli forces were carrying out demolitions on an unspecified number of buildings constructed without Israeli-issued permits, when “some local residents resorted to violence against the enforcement officials.”
“As a result of using riot control measures one person was injured and was evacuated to receive medical treatment at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital” in Jerusalem, the COGAT spokesperson, without specifying which “riot control measures” had been used.
A spokesperson for the Hadassah hospital could not immediately be reached for comment.
Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, although the estimated 550,000 Jewish Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory are more easily given building permits and allowed to expand their homes and properties.
Nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C -- the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control -- are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally.
Demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have seen an unprecedented surge
in recent months, as Israeli authorities demolished 959 Palestinian structures in the occupied Palestinian territory so far this year, more than double the 453 structures demolished in all of 2015, according to UN documentation.
Israeli police and soldiers have come under heavy criticism over the past year by rights groups for excessive use of force against Palestinians
-- youth and children in particular -- who did not pose an immediate threat or who could have been dealt with through non-violent means.