By EA John.
Ibrahim* raised his eyes and looked up at the sky. We followed his gaze. A drone was hovering overhead.
Ibrahim had told us earlier that there had been a lot of recent drone activity in his village in the Israeli controlled Area C of the West Bank. Area C, which makes up more than 60 percent of the West Bank, has been under complete Israeli military control since the mid-1990s, and hosts many housing settlements for Israeli citizens, which are illegal under international law.
The settler organisation, Regavim, and the Israeli Civil Administration (the military body governing in the West Bank) had been using drones to survey most of Ibrahim’s small village in the South Hebron Hills, monitoring Palestinian building developments, large and small. Ibrahim informed us that seeing drones was often a prelude to subsequent action by the Israeli military to demolish houses or other buildings and structures – livestock pens, outhouses and schools.
In an increasing number of cases, say UNOCHA, they also include humanitarian structures erected by the European Union to help those affected by earlier demolitions.
Demolitions take place regularly in Ibrahim’s village – his home has been demolished by the military on two occasions, forcing him to rebuild. All Palestinian homes in the area are under threat of demolition, as are smaller structures like sheep shelters. The Israeli military state that these demolitions are carried out because Palestinians build without their permission. However, the process for gaining permission is often long, bureaucratic and costly, with an extremely slim chance of success (whilst Israeli settlements continue to expand at a growing rate, around 1.5% of building permit applications by Palestinians are granted).
Licensing requirements on the Israeli Civilian Aviation Authority website for the use of drones in Israel are quite strict. Drone pilots must maintain full line of sight with their drone while flying, they may not fly above 50 metres from the ground or within 250 metres of people and buildings.
However Israeli civil law does not apply in the West Bank, and verbal reports from villagers we have met suggest rules relating to privacy and drones are not being applied there. As a Reuters article reported:
“Using drones, Regavim overflies the West Bank to capture footage of where illegal construction may be going on. Its lawyers and field workers then compile detailed files of alleged violations and present them to the government and courts” for legal action.
In a video Regavim released last month, Palestinians living in the West Bank are described as a “terrorist state right around the corner”, while its reports speak of “Arab settlement and its spreading tentacles throughout Israel’.
Destruction of property without military necessity is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Learn more about the illegal demolition of Palestinian homes by Israel and how you can support change by visiting the local website of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
Learn more about the the growing use of surveillance technology in the West Bank by also reading this eyewitness blog about the the use of facial recognition at Qalandia checkpoint.
Please share these blogs with your elected representatives and ask them to raise the issue of surveillance in the West Bank, and the lack of regulations in the occupied territory, allowing for breaches of Palestinian privacy, whilst Israeli’s are protected.
*Not his real name