By EA Noirin, Northern West Bank.
Just a week ago my team of Ecumenical Accompaniers reported on the EAPPI facebook page about road blocks in our area.
On Monday 25 September we were pleased to see some of them being removed by the Israeli army. But that changed quickly when we received calls inviting us to visit two demolition sites in neighbouring villages.
The first demolition site we visited was the ‘car breakers’ yard in Huwwara village, south east of the city of Nablus. Mohamed Suliman has operated his business where he buys and sells old cars and car parts for the past five years. He employs two men and the income from the business supports 18 members in their combined families.
Mohamed told us that the private buildings surrounding the yard he rents were built before the Israeli occupation of the West Bank began in 1967 and that he has a permit from the municipality for the business.
A few years ago he erected a secure shed on the site for car parts, tools and equipment at a cost of 50,000 shekels (approx. 12,500 Euro). But he was issued with a ‘stop work order’ banning him from continuing to build the shed from the Israeli courts and sourced support from a lawyer to act on his behalf. To date neither he nor his lawyer have received notification of a date for the court hearing.
Unexpectedly, on the morning of September 25, 2016, at 5.30am two bulldozers and 25 Israeli soldiers arrived in his yard and began demolishing the shed. Mohamed said he was in shock and was not allowed to ask the soldiers any questions. After the demolition of the shed he was advised by the army that the whole premises was to be cleared and that all the vehicles were to be removed, meaning that the whole site was to be demolished.Mohamed said he is devastated at this destruction of his property and the impact this will have on him, his family and the families of his working colleagues. But he says he is determined not to move and neither will he remove the cars and equipment from the yard.
Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that, “any destruction by an Occupying Power of real or personal property of a person/s or organisation is prohibited, except where the destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations”.
The Israeli government says it carries out these demolitions because people are building without permits. However, according to Israeli Civil Administration data, only 1.5% of requests by Palestinians for building permits between 2010-2014 were approved. None were approved in 2015.
The second demolition site we visited was close to the village Beit Dajan, north of Nablus City. To the east of the village the Israeli army and bulldozers had demolished a 200 square metre agricultural shelter designed for 150 sheep and goats at 7.00 am with no prior notice.
The owner, Ahmad Abu Jeish Karim, told us, “I saw the army truck and thought they were passing by but then saw a second truck and noticed they were surrounding the whole farm area which would close off all entrances”. The head of the Village Council Nasser Abu Jeish was told by the Israeli officer in charge that he was “following orders”. Nasser was advised to leave the area as it was now considered a “closed military zone” while the demolition was underway.Ahmad explained that he was very frightened as the soldiers were aggressive and when he attempted to ask a question, one of them pointed a gun directly in his face. He said there were five military jeeps, two bulldozers and two Israeli civil administration cars present to assist in the demolition and he was prevented from removing equipment and agricultural material from the structure. Two years ago after he had received a ‘stop work order’ Ahmed hired a private lawyer and brought his papers as proof of ownership to the court. The lawyer was informed then that the case was postponed but neither Ahmad nor the lawyer were informed of the date of the court hearing.
Ahmad uses his farm produce to support his family of seven and is worried about the economic impact of this demolition on his family’s livelihood and also on the sheep and goats as he will not have a shelter for them during the winter months ahead.