By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) - Two UN human rights experts Thursday condemned the demolition by Israel of the homes and property of a Palestinian Bedouin community in the northern Jordan Valley of the West Bank, amid a significant rise in property demolitions across the occupied territory.
In early November, at least 73 inhabitants of Khirbet Humsa, including 41 children, were displaced, and more than 75 structures – including tent homes, animal sheds, and solar panels – were destroyed, said Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory; and Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing.
"The Israeli planning regime in the occupied territory is discriminatory and restrictive, and rarely grants Palestinian applications for building permits," said the experts.
"This results in a coercive atmosphere, where property demolitions, or the threat of demolitions, drives Palestinians away from their homes, lands, and livelihoods."
They said that the Israeli Civil Administration – the arm of the Israeli Defense Forces, which administers the occupation of the West Bank – has said that the living structures of the Bedouin community were destroyed because they were built illegally in a military firing zone.
The experts note that Israel, the occupying power, routinely demolishes Palestinian homes and structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem built without a permit.
They said the Israeli military had confiscated significant portions of the West Bank as military firing zones, upending the lands and lives of many pastoral and permanent Bedouin communities.
The UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that 869 Palestinians had been rendered homeless this year through Israel's property destruction, the largest number since 2016.
In terms of the number of people left homeless, the destruction of Khirbet Humsa is the largest single demolition operation conducted by the Israeli Civil Administration since 2010.
"Home and property demolitions belonging to a protected population under occupation by an occupying power are a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention," the experts said.
The human rights experts expressed particular concern that the pattern of rising home and property demolitions by Israel occurred during the coronavirus pandemic.