A small community of Bedouins in the West Bank are facing homelessness after Israel labelled their Jordan Valley home a military zone and began a new round of demolitions this week.
On Wednesday, rights groups watched in horror as at least 35 children living in Humsa Al Bqa’ia were stranded in the sweltering heat, unsheltered and uncertain of where to go.
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem documented children asking their parents to explain what was happening as they watched from afar as bulldozers destroyed their homes.
“The cruelty is sickening,” said the group’s international advocacy officer, Sarit Michaeli.
The fate of the small community of Bedouins was sealed soon after it became part of what is known as ‘Area C’ after the Oslo Accords of 1993.
Area C makes up 59 per cent of the West Bank, and is under full Israeli control, except in the main Palestinian population centres, under the accords.
Israel also labelled the territory where these tribes live and herd their animals a “military zone”, prohibiting Palestinians from entering.
The Norwegian Refugee Council said Israeli forces destroyed eight residential shelters, four livelihood structures and agricultural equipment. It was the seventh wave of destruction this small village has endured; the biggest was in November.
In February, a Palestinian mother told the UN her baby was four days old when the Israeli military demolished her family home for the first time. Having given birth, she could not cope with the heavy lifting required to uproot her children and take them to safety in the freezing desert weather.
“The baby got sick, vomiting from the cold. The night was cold and rainy,” she said.
After a three-month stay at her father’s house, she returned to what remained of her old home.
“On the first day [back], they demolished again. The kids had to sleep outside. Everything was gone.”
Her oldest son tried to comfort her.
“He said: They’ll demolish but we’ll rebuild.”
Israel said it would “relocate” the dozens of Palestinians who have now become homeless despite vehement international opposition and condemnation.
“The only explanation I can offer is that my fellow Israelis who perpetrated this crime have completely dehumanised Palestinians,” Ms Michaeli said.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the demolitions.
The Israeli-designated “firing zone” for military training makes up about 30 per cent of the area and comprises 38 communities of Bedouins including 6,200 Palestinians.
The UN said this does not justify the displacement.
Its Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Israel had temporarily displaced some of these communities as many as 50 times since 2012 to conduct military training.
The Palestinian structures built there have all been marked for demolition because they were built without Israeli permission.
“Such permits are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain, due to the restrictive and discriminatory planning regime applied in Area C which allows residents minimal opportunity for authorised construction,” OCHA said in February.
The Norwegian Refugee Council called the move on Wednesday an “unrelenting show of force” by Israel.
It “destroyed at least 421 structures belonging to Palestinians in the first six months of 2021 alone. This marks a 30 per cent rise in demolitions for the same period in 2020,” said the Council’s Palestine country director Caroline Ort.