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Israeli forces demolish EU-funded homes in southern West Bank Bedouin village

Aug. 14, 2017 5:31 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 15, 2017 3:40 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces demolished housing donated by the European Union (EU) in a Bedouin village in the southern occupied West Bank on Monday morning, locals told Ma’an.

Muhammad Shanan, a resident of Khashem al-Daraj, told Ma’an that Israeli bulldozers under heavy military protection demolished two houses in the village belonging to Mustafa Salim Awwad and Moussa Ahmad Awwad.

Meanwhile, Ratib al-Jabour, a coordinator of the National and Popular Committees in the southern West Bank, told Ma’an that Israeli troops had also escorted bulldozers in the nearby Bedouin village of Umm al-Kheir, where residents feared their homes would also be demolished.

A spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma'an that the homes were demolished for being "illegally built in a military firing zone and without receiving the necessary permits from the qualified authorities."

Story continues below.

Khashem al-Daraj and Umm al-Kheir are among dozens of small communities located in the Masafer Yatta area -- also known as the South Hebron Hills -- which falls within Israel's "Firing Zone 918," and inside the occupied West Bank's Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and security control.

Palestinians are prohibited from entering firing zones without rarely granted permission from Israeli authorities, which has had “a serious humanitarian impact on Palestinian civilians and dramatically reduced the land available to them for residential and livelihood uses," according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Masafer Yatta residents were expelled at the time of the establishment of the firing zone in the 1970s and were eventually allowed back following a long court battle, but are under the constant threat of being expelled or seeing their homes demolished.

In 2016, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Palestine warned of a heightened risk of the forcible transfer of Bedouins in the occupied West Bank, including the community of Umm al-Kheir, amid an unprecedented surge in demolitions and land confiscations across the occupied territory this year.

Meanwhile, the presence of around 3,000 Israeli settlers illegally living in the area has restricted Palestinian growth over the past decade while Israeli authorities reallocate local resources for settlement expansion.

Earlier this month, Israeli authorities reportedly completed the construction of a 41.8-kilometer section of Israel’s illegal separation wall in the South Hebron Hills.

The separation wall, expected to reach 708 kilometers upon its completion -- 88 percent of which is planned inside occupied Palestinian territory -- is a common sight in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli-installed cement walls and barrier fences zig zag throughout the landscape.

Israeli leaders often claim that the wall serves a security purpose to deter potential Palestinian attacks on Israelis. However, many activists, academics, and analysts have said that the wall is instead a massive “land grab” of large tracts of the Palestinian territory, and a strategy to consolidate Israel’s sovereignty over Area C where illegal Israeli settlements are built or in the process of being built.

The wall’s construction has continued unabated despite being the International Court of Justice ruling that it breached international law. Encroaching deep into the Palestinian territory, the separation wall has left Palestinian neighborhoods stranded on both sides of the barrier, and isolating communities from their agricultural lands.
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