By EA Lisa
Demolitions in Wadi Qana
“We will build again” says Risek Abu Naser, as he shows EAs around the remains of his demolished house. His animal shelter has also been destroyed.
The shelter is in fact a cave at the foot of the Wana Qana Valley, which Risek had enclosed to provide a sheltered sleeping area for his thriving goat herd.
Three days earlier, Risek showed EAs around the farm, proudly introducing us to twin goats that had just been welcomed to the fold. He explained that the International Committee of the Red Crescent (ICRC) had provided had him with financial assistance to develop his herd.
Wadi Qana is a picturesque region in the north of the West Bank. Palestinians often come to picnic and relax with their families.
In recent times, however, the area’s natural beauty has also featured the construction of Israeli settlements and outposts, illegal under international law, which now overlook and surround the valley.
Prior to the Israeli occupation of 1967, this area was home to some 50 Palestinian families. They used the land for farming and grazing.
The valley’s springs were vital to the families’ existence, not only as a source of drinking water, but for irrigating vegetable crops and citrus trees. However, according to the human rights organisation B’ Tselem, waste water from the illegal housing developments polluted the wadi’s streams.
This contamination of the water supply, along with extensive water drilling ordered by Israeli authorities since the 1970s, has severely reduced the volume of water of the springs. As a result, most of the families abandoned their crops and left the area.
Farming Wadi Qana
Risek is one of the few farmers to have remained in the valley although, following the military’s bulldozing of his property, his livelihood from farming is now in doubt.
“They came at 7:30am and told me to take my belongings from the house, so I put what I could in a box ” – Risek
While the large convoy of bulldozers, armed soldiers, and cars carrying Israeli Civil Administration personnel made its way to the site, the soldiers and police blocked the entrance to the valley preventing family and friends from entering the area.
Risek told EAs that the soldiers tried to prevent him from removing the goats from their shelter. In the ensuing fracas he was struck with the back of a rifle and pushed to the ground. The goats scattered and ran:
“The goats ran toward the settlements. The last time this happened settlers killed five of them. By the time I rounded them up and returned to the farm, they were done”, says Risek, meaning the farm and house were demolished. He also shows us the remains of some of the goats, killed by the departing bulldozer.
Permits in Area C
Wadi Qana was declared a nature reserve by Israeli authorities in the 1980’s, despite the land being privately owned by Palestinian farmers. Now, as per the Oslo Accords of the 1990’s, the valley lies within Area C.
This means that a permit is necessary to make any changes on the land, or to existing structures.
The Israeli Civil Administration says that the demolition was ordered on Risek’s property because the structure was extended without a permit, thus violating planning regulations. Risek tells us that he added a cement floor and a covering to the roof of the dwelling.
ICRC officials believe that the demolition was illegal and claim the order called only for an evacuation of the property, not a demolition. Theyare assisting Risek in seeking legal advice on the matter. In the meantime, Risek intends to rebuild his home.
Demolitions of private property by Israeli authorities are increasing at an alarming rate.
According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, 32 structures were demolished in January of 2018 alone.
The destruction or demolition of private and public property by an occupying power is prohibited under Articles 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and under Article 23 of the 1907 Hague Regulations, unless absolutely necessary for military operations.
Share this story with your contacts and local representatives (e.g. MP, TD, MEP) urging them to understand daily life for Palestinian farmers in the West Bank.