Urgent Appeal to the OHCHR Concerning Imminent House Demolitions in the Palestinian Village of Um Al-Khair

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) wrote an urgent appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, to direct his attention to the imminent home demolitions faced by the Palestinian community of Um Al-Khair, a Bedouin village located in the South Hebron Hills in Area C. The letter was based on a pressing appeal GICJ received from the community of Um Al-Khair.

On 4 April 2017, the Israeli Civil Administration submitted two demolition orders for seven family houses in Um Al-Khair, which are to be leveled later this month – presumably between 18 and 20 April 2017. This will be the thirteenth campaign of home demolitions in the village since the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of “Carmel” was established in 1981, executed under the pretext that the locals do not have Israeli-issued building permits.

While the Palestinian residents immediately informed the lawyer Ghaiath Nasser to object the demolition orders, the Israeli Civil Administration has not responded to the lawyer’s appeals. As the Passah holiday starts on Monday, 10 April and continues until 17 April, the Palestinians are denied any opportunity to object the demolitions. The residents of Um Al-Khair therefore have to prepare to face the thirteenth demolition in their village.

For Palestinians living in Area C, which constitutes 60 percent of the West Bank under complete Israeli military control, it is almost impossible to be granted building permits by the Israeli authorities. Therefore, residents have to build without officially issued permits. The policy of house demolitions reveals that the Israeli state seeks to expel Palestinians from their land to illegally construct and expand settlements and annex further parts of Palestine.

Since its establishment in 1981, the illegal “Carmel” settlement has been continuously expanding on Palestinian land privately owned by the families of Um Al-Khair. By now, settlers have confiscated half of the land, have destroyed water wells and cisterns and other vital infrastructure, and have closed roads of passage by Palestinian residents traditionally used for agricultural activity and the earning of livelihood.

The Israeli authorities started demolishing houses in Um Al-Khair in 2007. In the subsequent years of 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016 demolitions continued, often without prior warning. Appealing to the Israeli High Court, if successful, solely delays the date of the demolition.

On basis of discriminatory laws such as the 1950 Absentees’ Property Law, military orders under the Emergency Regulations declaring Palestinian land as “state land” and “closed military zones”, and an apartheid zoning and planning regime, Israel has persistently and systematically conducted large-scale confiscation of Palestinian land and property for the sake of Jewish settlements in occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel. Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel similarly face demolitions, forced evictions and displacement, executed on the basis of the Bill for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev.

Three generations of the families of Um Al-Khair have been facing displacement, dispossession and hardship. The recurrent demolitions of their homes inflict severe psychological harm on Palestinians, especially children. As Tariq Hathaleen, community activist of Um Al-Khair and GICJ correspondent, described:

“The children are terrified and they start crying and screaming whenever they see the army enter the village. […] We are losing our children. Every time they demolish the children start to act in a strange way. They lose their childhood with every demolition.”

The incessant home demolitions result in continuous suffering and displacement of Palestinians, at times of entire communities, and gravely infringe on many fundamental human rights, inter alia, the right to life and security of person, to education, and to an adequate standard of living.

In light of the issues addressed in the letter, and aware that Israel continues its illegal activities with impunity, GICJ asked the High Commissioner to put pressure on the Israeli government to refrain from executing the illegal house demolitions in Um Al-Khair and to immediately cease all its illegal policies and practices violating Palestinians’ inalienable rights, including its devastating demolitions of Palestinian property. GICJ called on the High Commissioner to support the efforts by several Member States to introduce necessary forcible measures to make Israel comply with human rights and international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention – Article 53 of which explicitly prohibits the destruction by the Occupying Power of property save for absolute military necessity. As a result, GICJ asked the High Commissioner to do all that is in his mandate to ensure the protection of the Palestinian people.

The community of Um Al-Khair calls on the international community, on civil society organizations, politicians and governments to support them in asking the Israeli government to stop its illegal settlement activities on their lands as well as the destructive home demolitions in their village and in all of Palestine, which undermine the prospects for peace in the region.

Suleiman Hathaleen and his granddaughter walk along the fence separating their homes from the illegal Israeli settlement of “Carmel”, which was constructed on their land. [Photo by AlJazeera]

Suleiman Hathaleen confronts soldiers to stop them from executing the home demolitions in his village. [Photo by community activist Ahmad Hathaleen]

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GICJ - Urgent Appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967

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      Human Rights Council - 29th regular session (15 June - 3 July 2015)

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