Three high-level UN officials call on ‘Israel’ to halt demolitions and respect international law

After their meeting with the Palestinian Bedouins from Hamsa al Bqai’a in the northern Jordan Valley on Thursday, three high-level UN representatives issued a statement calling on ‘Israel’ to halt demolitions there and respect international law.

The three representatives are Sarah Muscroft, head of the UN’s humanitarian agency in the occupied territory, James Heenan, head of the UN Human Rights Office (OCHA) there and Lucia Elmi, UNICEF Special Representative in Palestine.

“Sixty people, including 35 children, were displaced from their homes and their belongings seized or destroyed by Israeli forces”, said the UN representatives in the statement.

They said that among items and materials seized were tents “provided as humanitarian assistance following an earlier demolition in November of 83 other structures; the largest single demolition since 2009.”

“The demolitions and confiscations were carried out after the families were verbally ordered to leave the area, although the community has made it clear they want to remain,” said the representatives.

“The community has made appeals to the courts and rejected previous proposals to be moved to another location. This situation where the community is put under pressure to move raises a real risk of forcible transfer, which is a breach of international law.”

“The humanitarian community has also consistently expressed concerns over other impending demolitions, including of schools.”

“One school in Um Qussa, in the southern West Bank, is currently under imminent threat of demolition, which would impact 50 children. Bedouin children, especially girls, are amongst the most vulnerable to human rights violations.”

“Limiting their access to education and other basic services during a pandemic only exacerbates this vulnerability. Currently 53 schools, which are attended by 5,200 children, have demolition orders placed against them. The rights of children to protection, safety, and well-being must be upheld at all times.”

The United Nations representatives stressed that the humanitarian community will continue to “provide assistance to those impacted by this demolition, ensure their humanity is recognised and dignity upheld, and advocate for respect for international law.”

Almost 800 Palestinians, including 404 minors, lost their homes in 2020.

Throughout 2019, 677 lost their homes, up from 387 in 2018 and 521 in 2017.

The EU has also condemned Israel’s demolition of tents and structures belonging to Palestinian families in Hamsa al-Foqa village.

“These large-scale demolitions confirm the regrettable trend of confiscations and demolitions seen throughout last year,” said the European Commission spokesperson for foreign affairs issues Peter Stano.

He added, “They have continued despite the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, notwithstanding the obligations of Israel as the occupying power under international humanitarian law. The European Union reiterates its call to Israel to halt demolitions and the need to facilitate humanitarian access to the affected communities.”

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