Palestinian villagers in remote parts of the southern West Bank are bracing themselves for more home demolitions, a week after Israeli bulldozers destroyed 23 homes leaving more than 100 people homeless.
Villagers fear a temporary court injunction to stop the demolition of another 10 properties – to be heard on Tuesday – will fail.
The injunction will be heard at the high court of justice in Jerusalem and will decide if the Israeli army has a legal grounding to destroy the additional residences in the villages of Al Fahit, Majaz, Sfay, Umm Tuba and Al Mercaz, to make way for a military facility.
Israeli bulldozers moved into Khirbet Jenbah and Halawa last Tuesday morning destroying the homes and other structures.
The demolitions came after the latest round of mediation talks between lawyers representing Palestinian villagers and the Israeli government collapsed.
In the days after Tuesday’s demolitions, aid agencies delivered tents to protect them from the elements.
The demolitions are part of plans to remove 1,000 Palestinians from a 11.5 square miles of land in the south Hebron Hills, which was designated a military zone, known as Firing Zone 918, in the 1970s.
The army first began demolishing structures and forcibly evicting Palestinian residents in 1999. Residents returned to their land they mounted a legal challenge in court. The matter was never resolved as the court kept referring it to arbitration.
While Israel has long wanted to move the villages, located in part of the occupied territories known as Area C, which is under full Israeli administrative and security control, the villagers have enjoyed high-profile international support.
Last week, however, Israel declared that mediation had failed because of the villagers’ unwillingness to relocate. A statement from Cogat, the Israeli defence ministry unit that administers civilian affairs in the West Bank, said that “enforcement measures were taken against illegal structures and solar panels built within a military zone”.
On Saturday the European Union called on Israel to stop the demolition of Palestinian housing, some of which had been donated by the EU.
“In the past weeks there have been a number of developments in Area C of the West Bank, which risk undermining the viability of a future Palestinian state and driving the parties yet further apart,” an EU statement said.
The statement also referred to a decision made on 25 January, by Israel, to declare 380 acres of land near Jericho in the West Bank state land, with reported plans to build 150 new residences for settlers.
This was followed by the demolitions in Khirbet Jenbah and Halawa last week.
“This is particularly concerning both because of the extent of the demolitions and also the number of vulnerable individuals affected, including children who need support,” the EU said, adding that “demolitions included EU-funded structures”
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