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‘Israeli’ demolitions displaced over 800 Palestinian this year: Advocacy group

An advocacy group says than 800 Palestinians have been left homeless by Israeli demolitions so far this year, after the single largest Israeli demolition displaced dozens in the occupied West Bank.

According to a Wednesday statement by B’Tselem, this is the highest number since 2016, when nearly 1,500 Palestinians were left with nowhere to live.

The statement came a day after Israeli military destroyed the homes of nearly 80 Palestinian Bedouins in the occupied West Bank in a rare operation targeting an entire community at once.

Israeli bulldozers razed the homes of Palestinians living in the Humsa al-Bqai’a Bedouin community in the north Jordan Valley late on Tuesday.

Israel uses US election to cover up demolitions

Reacting to the move, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh called on the international community to take action against Israeli troops’ attempt to “displace the citizens of Khirbet Humsa and tens of similar communities from their homes and lands.”

He said Israel “chose this evening to commit another crime” as the attention is focused on the United States presidential election.

“The wiping off of a whole community at once is extremely rare, and it seems like Israel was making use of the fact that everyone’s attention is currently set elsewhere to move forward with this inhumane act,” Amit Gilutz of B’Tselem said, referring to the US presidential election.

Gilutz said this year, Israel broke a four-year record in the number of Palestinians it displaced by destroying their homes.

According to data compiled by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Tuesday’s clearing was the single largest demolition since 19 July 2010, in terms of numbers of structures affected.

On Wednesday, the displaced families were seen trying to salvage their belongings from the wreckage in the freezing rain.

A Palestinian aid group has provided tents as temporary shelter for those who lost their homes, but residents said they were not sufficient for the village’s families, including children. They said villagers were now sleeping on the rubble of their destroyed shacks.

“Their vulnerability is further compounded by the onset of winter and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said OCHA’s humanitarian coordinator Yvonne Helle, who also strongly called on Israel to halt unlawful demolitions. 

“Some of the demolished structures had been donated as humanitarian assistance,” she said.

Last month, OCHA warned that between March and August, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, they recorded the highest destruction rate in the West Bank in four years.

OCHA data shows that Tuesday’s demolition is second only in scale to a clearing that took place in al-Farisiya Ihmayyer in the northern Jordan Valley on 19 July 2010.

The last time such a large group of people was displaced was in March 2016.

Israeli authorities claim that homes in the occupied West Bank have been built without permits. They also sometimes order the Palestinian owners to tear down their own homes or pay the demolition costs to the municipality.

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