Human rights activists and residents occupying a rural community in the Israeli-occupied region of West Bank said Israeli authorities carried out a demolition exercise in the area, leaving 73 people, including 41 children, homeless.
While the world’s attention was focused elsewhere following the US elections, the Israeli military destroyed more than 70 structures housing Palestinians in the region. A statement by the United Nations described the situation as the largest forced displacement incident for years.
According to a video uploaded on YouTube, excavators which were seen accompanied by military vehicles, razed down tents, shacks, living spaces, and other makeshift structures erected by residents. Yvonne Helle, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, said that the communities that were razed down were among some of the most vulnerable in the occupied territory.
She added that a large number of the community lost their shelters during the Tuesday operation, making it the largest forced displacement in more than four years. With the number of structures that were destroyed, totaling 76, Helles concluded that it was the most extensive demolition in the past decade.
The next day, families could be seen rummaging through their belongings to retrieve whatever possession could be salvaged. The village is one of the shepherding communities in the Jordan Valley area and is situated within an area where the Israeli military uses its training firing zones. The communities around the neighborhood are often at risk of having their buildings demolished at no notice.
Helles berated the Israeli authorities, accusing them of breaching international law. She reiterated that Israel had used demolitions as a means of forcing the Palestinians to leave their homes. She gave as almost 700, the total number of structures that have been demolished across the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 2020. This situation has left 869 Palestinians homeless, NPR reports.
Israel’s Civil Administration, the body charged with overseeing the occupied territory, reacted to the condemnations that have since trailed Israel’s actions. It said the steps carried out in the area were only an enforcement activity and that only seven tents and eight pens, illegally constructed within a firing range, were razed down.
However, B’Tselem, a prominent Israeli human rights group, has come out to deny the figures stated by the Israeli authorities. It listed 18 tents used for living spaces, 29 tents, and sheds used as livestock enclosures, nine tents used as kitchens, ten livestock pens, ten portable toilets, water storage containers, two solar panels, and other household materials as properties affected in the demolition.
Amit Gilutz, a spokesperson for the group, criticized Israel’s actions as coming at a time when everyone’s attention was glued elsewhere at the US elections, declaring the action inhumane.
Israel had held control of the area since 1967 when the country captured it from Jordanian forces as a result of the Six-Day War.