Demolished Hope

By the Yanoun team. 

This is not an earthquake, it’s an apartment demolished at night by the Israeli military. Note the demolition markings in spray paint on the remaining walls.

02.05.16. Nablus, home demolition in Area A. Photo EAPPI/B. Hellstrom

At 1.30 am on the 3rd May, about 100 soldiers together with army engineers arrived at an eight story high block of flats near the site of Jacob’s Well in Nablus. Using heavy drills the engineers demolished all the interior walls of the apartment and removed the door and window frames. After three and a half hours, they departed, leaving behind a pile of rubble in the destroyed apartment with electrical wires hanging from the concrete ceiling.

The owner of the apartment, Zain Amer, is awaiting legal decision on a charge of participating in the killing of two settlers in Nablus. Even accepting that the charge may be correct, the response of the Israeli Army amounts to collective punishment. There are several factors to be taken into account.

Firstly, the demolition took place in Area A, which under the terms of the Oslo agreement of 1995 is supposed to be under the full control of the Palestinian Authority.

Secondly, the apartment was the home of the accused and his wife, who has not been accused of any offence. She is thereby being punished for an alleged offence for which she has no responsibility.

Thirdly, during the demolition, blocks of masonry crashed down the outside of the block of flats causing damage to the ground floor apartment, where a water tank, outside steps and awnings were also hit. The owner of the downstairs flat remarked that if anyone had stepped outside they could well have been hurt by falling debris. He said that he was thankful that at least explosives were not used.

Fourthly, the whole neighbourhood was disturbed by the violence of the military operation and adults and children left with a sense of shock.

02.05.16. Nablus. demolitionare A. Photo EAPPI/B. Hellstrom

02.05.16. Nablus. Palestinian workers assessing the damage after demolitions. Photo EAPPI/B. Hellstrom

It is also worthy of note that sometime prior to the demolition on the 3rd of May soldiers had entered the nearby store of the family-owned toy and cycle business. They systematically broke everything they could lay their hands on and flung some of the toys down a deep outside stair-well outside the store. This was clearly collective punishment directed at the wider family of the accused.

Overall there has been an increase in house demolitions in the occupied West bank during 2016. Punitive demolitions are only a small proportion of these. More common reasons are; for security reasons (too near the wall or one of the illegal settlements); for administrative reasons (structures built without planning permission – though planning permission is virtually impossible to get in the parts of the West Bank under Israeli military control); or in the case of some rural communities they are deemed to be on nature reserves or in a military training area. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reports that 2015, there were 447 demolitions in the West Bank and 74 in East Jerusalem, by the Israeli authorities. So far this year (January- April 2016) 525 structures have been demolished in the West Bank and 66 in East Jerusalem. These demolitions bring misery and despair to those directly affected. They are a throw-back to the colonial policies of the British Mandate period and have no place in the twenty first century. The only way to put a stop to this is to end the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and for the withdrawal of Israel in line with all relevant United Nations resolutions.

More Information:

B’Tselem: House Demolitions as Punishment

B’Tselem: Israeli security forces demolish four families’ homes, punishing 28 people, including 6 minors, for actions of persons no longer alive

UNOCHA: Punitive house demolitions resume

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