In response to Israel’s demolition and confiscation of Palestinian-owned structures last week in the Palestinian community of Humsa in the Jordan Valley, UN human rights experts have called on the international community to hold the occupying state of Israel to account.
“We welcome the support given to the villagers of Humsa by the diplomatic representatives in Palestine and Israel. But much more must be done by their governments to insist upon Israeli accountability, which is the missing key to ending this protracted occupation,” said Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, and Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living.
The UN human rights experts pointed out that “the ongoing destruction by the Israeli military of the homes, and the destruction and seizure of property, including humanitarian assistance, in Humsa has been causing great hardship to the approximately 60 villagers, including 35 children.”
“This is a traditional Bedouin village in occupied territory, which depends upon its traditional homes, its animal herds and its water tanks for shelter, food security and its economic livelihood,” said the experts. “Severing the villagers from their lands and their homes is particularly punitive given the harsh winter they are experiencing and the ever-present dangers of a global pandemic.”
The experts noted that there are no active military hostilities in the occupied West Bank, and have not been for many years. They said the evictions also violate international human rights prohibitions against the forced removal of civilians from their homes.
UN member states, primarily from Europe, and various non-governmental organizations, have provided emergency tents and other forms of property assistance to the villagers after the initial destruction by the Israeli occupation army. Subsequently, at least 42 of the donated humanitarian relief structures have been seized or destroyed by the occupation army.
Responding to Israeli government’s justification of the attempted destruction of Humsa on the grounds that it lies within an Israeli military firing zone. The UN experts said: “These justifications by Israel do not satisfy its strict obligations under international law. An occupying power cannot use the territory under occupation to conduct military training operations without ample justification.”
The human rights experts observed that the threat to permanently expel the inhabitants of Humsa was part of a larger worrisome pattern of forcible removals and home demolitions in the occupied West Bank. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Israeli military has demolished almost 200 Palestinian-owned properties in the West Bank during the first seven weeks of 2021, displacing at least 285 people, including 150 children.