Israel should be held accountable for housing demolitions, say UN experts
By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA): The international community must take action to stop Israel’s systematic and deliberate demolition of homes, arbitrary displacement and forced expulsion of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, UN experts said Monday.
In January alone, Israeli authorities reportedly demolished 132 Palestinian structures across 38 communities in the West Bank, including 34 residential and 15 donor-funded structures, said the experts.
This figure represents a 135% increase compared to the same period in 2022 and includes five punitive demolitions.
“The systematic demolition of Palestinian homes, erection of illegal Israeli settlements, and systematic denial of building permits for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank amounts to ‘domicide,’” they said.
The experts are Francesca Albanese, special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing; and Paula Gaviria Betancur, special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.
They reiterated their concern over the situation in Masafer Yatta, where over 1,100 Palestinian residents remain at imminent risk of forced eviction, arbitrary displacement, and demolition of their homes, livelihood, water, and sanitation structures.
In November, Israeli authorities demolished a donor-funded school in Isfey al Fauqa, a southern West Bank village.
Four other schools in the area are under demolition orders.
“Direct attacks on the Palestinian people’s homes, schools, livelihoods, and water sources are nothing but Israel’s attempts to curtail the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and to threaten their very existence,” the experts said.
They explained that in occupied East Jerusalem, tens of Palestinian families also face imminent risks of forced evictions and displacement due to discriminatory zoning and planning regimes that favor Israeli settlement expansion.
‘Illegal under international law’
The experts said such acts were “illegal under international law” and amount to a war crime.
They also expressed alarm at the Israeli government’s endorsement and growing practice of punitive evictions and demolitions and other punitive measures applied to alleged perpetrators of “terrorist” attacks and their family members.
Such actions include revoking identity documents, citizenship and residency rights, and social security benefits.
On Jan. 29, Israeli authorities announced measures to immediately seal off family homes of those suspected of carrying out attacks on Jan. 27-28 in occupied East Jerusalem.
These included one attack in the settlement of Neve Yacoub on Jan. 27, killing at least seven Israelis.
Two families of the alleged attackers were forcibly evicted from their homes, and more than 40 people, including family members, were reportedly arrested over the attacks.
“The sealing of family homes of suspected offenders and the subsequent demolition of their homes is in fundamental disrespect of international human rights norms and the rule of law,” according to the experts.
“We regret that impunity prevails, in particular for human rights violations and potential war crimes committed by the occupying power. It is high time for international adjudication bodies to determine the nature of the Israeli occupation and seek justice and accountability for all crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian Territory.”
They said that they repeatedly raised concerns with the Israeli government on these issues, but have not received a response.
Meanwhile, Israel’s government on Sunday moved to advance 10,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank, and began the process to retroactively legalize nine settler outposts that were previously illegal under Israeli law.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the decision in a statement, listing the illegal outposts as Avigayil, Beit Hogla, Givat Harel, Givat Arnon, Mitzpe Yehuda, Malachei Hashalom, Asahel, Sde Boaz and Shacharit.
According to the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the decision to legalize the illegal outposts came in response to a Palestinian car-ramming attack in the Ramot settlement in Jerusalem on Saturday, in which three Israelis were killed.
In a statement, PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudainah termed the Israeli decision as a “disregard of American and Arab efforts” and a “provocation to the Palestinian people.”
“All unilateral measures are rejected in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy and bilateral agreements,” he said.
The Palestinian spokesman warned that “there will be no security and stability in the region without the establishment of the Palestinian state on the pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
UN estimates indicate nearly 700,000 settlers are living in a sprawling network of 140 settlements and outposts across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Under international law, all Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are considered illegal, and the UN has said their expansion “tramples” on human rights law.
While Israel grants every Jew in the world the right to settle in Israel, it has—against U.N. resolutions and international law—refused to allow the approximately five million Palestinian refugees alive today to return to their homeland.
The settlements are built on lands the Palestinians are seeking for their future state.
Under international law, all Israeli settlements are illegal.
Both Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the International Criminal Court Rome Statute prohibit settlement activity. According to Article 8(2) of the Rome Statute, ‘the transfer, directly or indirectly, by an occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory’ are unlawful. In 2021, United Nations Palestine expert Michael Lynk said Israeli settlements should be classified as war crimes under the Rome Statute.
The European Union on Monday rejected Israel’s decision to legalize nine illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank and turn them into new settlements.
The decision by Israeli authorities was not accepted by the EU, according to a statement from the office of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
The statement said the Jewish settlements are illegal under international law and reiterated that the EU will not recognize any changes made outside of the 1967 borders.
The US is “deeply troubled” by Israel’s decision to dramatically expand its network of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday.
UK has not said anything on the illegal move.
Neither US, EU or UK have threatened Israel with sanctions on Israel’s illegal move.
*Writing by Ahmed Asmar in Ankara
Additional report by imemc.org and The Muslim News
[Archive Photo: Palestinians carry their belongings after Israeli forces demolished their houses at Duma village in Nablus, West Bank on February 2, 2022. Photographer: Hisham K. K. Abu Shaqra/AA]
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