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Israeli House Demolitions as a Threat to Development and Family Life

Monday, 15 August 2011 14:21
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bethlahem6 July – 12 July
14 July 2011
Ref. No.:239/2011

The Trend

The demolition of Palestinian homes and infrastructure in Area Cby the Israeli authorities has increased dramatically this year. This policy infringes upon the rights of the Palestinian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, severely restricting access to education, health and employment; and placing enormous pressure on family life.

Al-Haq monitored a number ofthese incidents in the West Bank this week including the demolition of the Sa’d family home inthe village of BeitIskariyain the Bethlehem Governorate.

Like many Palestinian villages in Area C,BeitIskariyais surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements (see map below). Residents face a permanent threat of demolition and forced displacement due to the prohibitive building regulations imposed by the Israeli authorities.

Al-Haq recorded the sworn statement of the mother of the family,Fatima Muhammad Sa’d(Al-Haq Affidavit 6458/2011).

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The Incident

At 6:00 am on 5 July 2011, Israeli border guards, police, and army personnel came toFatima’s home.An officer from the Israeli District Coordination Office (DCO) of the Israeli army accompanied the force. The security personnel amassed about 20 metres south of the house and told the family to leave the structure. At that moment, an Israeli military bulldozer approached the house and the family realised that the Israeli forces had come to destroy their home.

Fatima’s husband, Mahmoud, asked themilitary officer to stop the demolitionand called their lawyer to inform him of the situation. The military officer did not respond to Mahmoud and within a short time the bulldozer had completely destroyed the house.

When villagers approached the area to see what had happened, the soldiers threatened them with force until they moved away. Fatima’s son,Khalil, who is 24 years old, was pushed to the ground by a soldier and lost consciousness. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The Family

Fatima and Mahmoudlive with six of their eight children,as well asMahmoud’s elderly parents.The youngest child is 15 years old.

Up until two years ago the family’s only accommodation had been a cave in BeitIskariyawhere they had lived since Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank in 1967. As the family grew theirliving situation became increasingly difficult. They could not move into a house because Israel’s planning and building regulations prevented the family constructing a more suitable home.

However, as life in the cave became unsustainable, the family had no choice but to defy the regulations and build a small house, close to the cave, out of concrete blocks and zinc sheets. The house was divided into two rooms with a kitchen and a bathroom.

Soon after they had started building their home the Israeli civil administration ordered them to cease construction.After this initial verbal warning Mahmoud contacted a lawyer, Shawki al-‘Isa, who submitted an application for a building permit. When the permit was denied Shawki then submitted an official appeal against the demolition order.

The Israeli civil administration is obliged to notify the lawyer via fax if the appeal has been denied and the demolition is to proceed. At no point didShawki receive such a notification. He is now challenging the demolition on these grounds.

The Aftermath

Since this week’s demolition, the Sa’dfamily are without a home. The International Committee of the Red Cross has provided the family with a tent, several mattresses, and some household items. However,the tentis not large enough for theentire family so some members have been forced tostay with Mahmoud’s brother in another small house near the village. The remaining family members are now living in the tent with few prospects for a sustainableand secure solution to their situation.