13,000 Palestinian structures under demolition threat

Thousands of Israeli demolition orders are awaiting implementation in a huge swathe of the occupied West Bank

Published: Updated:

Almost 13,000 Palestinian homes, businesses, and other structures could be demolished as part of a series of Israeli demolition orders, the U.N. has said in a report citing data obtained from Israeli authorities.

The report from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also highlighted the difficulty Palestinians were facing in obtaining building permits needed to prevent the demolition orders.

More than 11,000 Israeli demolition orders relating to an estimated 13,000 Palestinian structures are currently awaiting implementation in a huge swathe of the occupied West Bank, said the report entitled “Under Threat.”

Constantly imminent demolitions

“That’s the whole problem with house demolitions, is that you never know when is it going to happen, there is always sort of an ‘element of surprise’ which adds to the trauma,” Ruth Edmonds, an advocacy officer at the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions told Al Arabiya News.

‘The houses are demolished at random,’ Edmonds said.

Palestinians’ whose homes, are demolished must also pay for the process which leads to the levelling of their homes.

“The family would still have to pay for the demolition itself and the cleanup. You’d then have to think of the costs that come afterwards, such as finding a new home: either renting or building a new one,” she explained.

“When a Palestinian gets a home demolition order on their home they have two options: they can wait for the authorities to demolish it for them or they can demolish it themselves,” Edmonds said, adding that the latter option was usually cheaper.

Additionally, the U.N. report said where orders had been implemented. “they have resulted in displacement and disruption of livelihoods, the entrenchment of poverty and increased aid dependency.”

In the past, Israeli authorities said these homes were demolished because of a lack of building permits.

“There is no real justification for it [administrative home demolitions] under international law,” Edmonds said.

“Israel is responsible, as an occupying power, for the population under its occupation and one of the laws they have to follow is that they do not forcefully displace or otherwise displace people from their homes and that includes house demolition,” she added.

‘Quiet transfer’

One term used to describe house demolitions in Palestine is “quiet” or “silent transfter,” Edmonds said.

“…Because it’s quiet, and although it happens so often and so frequently, people end up leaving and moving, and being displaced, in enormous numbers because of this policy,” she explained.

While requiring a building permit to construct a structure is not an unusual policy, Edmonds said, the contention lies in hardship Palestinians face in obtaining these permits.

Last month 31 international organizations, including Oxfam and Amnesty International, criticized what they called a “surge” in West Bank demolitions.

They cited U.N. figures showing Israel’s destruction of 63 houses and other structures in a single week in August, leaving 132 Palestinians homeless.

[With AFP]