UN criticises Israeli demolition of remote Bedouin village

Israel says community of nomadic Arabs is too close to military firing zone

Israeli workers dismantle tents during a demolition operation of a Palestinian bedouin encampment in the area of Humsa, east of the village of Tubas in the north of the occupied West Bank on February 22, 2021.  / AFP / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH
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UN investigators on Tuesday criticised Israel for demolishing a traditional Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank and destroying occupants’ property in an effort to free up land for a military training zone.

UN human rights experts Michael Lynk and Balakrishnan Rajagopal said in a statement that the demolitions at Humsa Al Bqai’a in the northern Jordan Valley were part of a worrying increase in the destruction of Palestinian homes this year.

“The ongoing destruction by the Israeli military of the homes and the destruction and seizure of property, including humanitarian assistance, in Humsa Al Bqai’a has been causing great hardship to the approximately 60 villagers, including 35 children,” they said.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said Israeli forces confiscated and then demolished 21 homes, 17 livestock shelters and eight water and washroom facilities in the village at the beginning of February.

The structures were donated to the semi-nomadic Arab community by the European Union, the United Kingdom and aid organisations after a wave of demolitions in November 2020, the group said.

“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,” the experts said.

“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.”

Israel's mission to the UN did not answer a request for comment.

Israeli officials said the Humsa Al Bqai'a community lies within an Israeli military firing zone - although the UN said this does not justify forced relocation.

Israel has used the “same rationale” to uproot villagers in other parts of the West Bank, the experts said.

The Israeli military demolished about 200 Palestinian properties in the West Bank in the first seven weeks of the year, displacing 285 people, the UN said.

The Palestinians seek an independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, all territory captured by Israel in 1967.

Most countries view Israeli demolitions there as illegal. Israel disputes this, citing security needs and historical connections to the land.