This past year has seen an escalation in the demolition of homes and other structures in Area C of the West Bank. According to the World Bank, building in 70 percent of Area C is prohibited for the estimated 150,000 Palestinians living there. In the remaining 30 percent of the Area, Israeli authorities have adopted a wide range of restrictions that make it almost impossible for the residents living there to obtain a building permit.
This harsh reality has forced some Palestinian families in the area to build houses and other infrastructure despite having been denied building permits. Many families have sought legal assistance to overturn demolition orders and challenge the denial of building permits but to no avail.
The on-going demolition operations in Area C leave many families displaced and destroy their livelihood. More recently, on 24 November, three demolition operations took place in Hebron governorate. In the village of Ithna west of Hebron, three water wells, three agricultural structures and a house under construction were demolished by Israeli forces under the pretence that they lack permits. In the nearby area of Sousiya, Israeli forces demolished a hut and a sheep barn with the same justification.
The most striking of these operations was in the small village of Al-Mufaqqara south east of Yatta, during which three women were physically assaulted by Israeli soldiers. Two of the women (21 years old and 17 years old) were later arrested. A mosque, two homes and a rabbit hutch were also demolished that day under an order from the Israeli Civil Administration.
Halima Sh’hadeh Hamada
At around 9:00 am on 24 November, Halima Sh’hadeh Hamada (49 years old) witnessed several military jeeps arrive to Al-Mufaqqara village accompanying a JCB bulldozer. In preparation for the demolition, workers from the Israeli Civil Administration began emptying furniture from Halima’s home and that of her neighbour.
In protest, Halima’s daughter Sawsan (21 years old) started placing back the furniture that had been removed from her mother’s house. The Israeli soldiers present responded by beating her and spraying gas in her face. As Halima tried to protect her daughter from the soldiers, she was pushed to ground and fractured her leg. Halima’s other daughter Amal, (17 years old), was also physically assaulted when she tried to protect her sister. The two sisters were dragged away by the Israeli soldiers and forced to sit kneeling on the ground until they were placed inside the military jeep and driven away.
The Israeli authorities then continued to demolish Al-Mufaqqara’s mosque; the home of a widowed woman and her children; and Halima’s home which had provided shelter to 21 individuals; of which 11 are children. According to Halima, the family had hired a lawyer in 2006 after receiving an order from the Israeli authorities to stop building in the area. The lawyer informed the family that he had been able to obtain an order from the court revoking the demolition order. As such, the family was shocked when they saw that their home was to be demolished.
The following video from Operation Dove – Nonviolent Peace Corps shows the two young women as they were being arrested and shows one of the homes being demolished: