The number of Palestinian homes in the West Bank demolished by Israel during just the first half of 2016 is greater than the number of homes demolished almost every year over the last decade.
The data, published by Israeli NGO B'Tselem ahead of a Knesset conference on demolitions in so-called 'Area C' of the West Bank, shows that from January to end of June, Israeli occupation authorities demolished 168 homes, leaving 740 Palestinians homeless – 384 of them children.
By comparison, the equivalent figure for all of 2015 was 125 homes demolished, and 496 displaced.
From the beginning of 2006 to June 30, 2016, Israel has demolished more than 1,110 homes of Palestinians in the West Bank, not including Occupied East Jerusalem, displacing at least 5,199 residents, including 2,602 children. (For full statistics see here).
According to B'Tselem, "most of the demolitions were carried out in small, underprivileged communities located far from Palestinian population centres, primarily in the Jordan Valley, in the South Hebron Hills, and in the east of Jerusalem, in and around E1."
Israel's "efforts to expel these communities" had included "repeated demolition of the homes of the same families"; over the last decade, at least 656 Palestinians have had their homes demolished more than once in the Jordan Valley and the South Hebron Hills.
The Israeli NGO points out how, in every demolition, Israeli authorities demolish "not only homes but also various structures that the communities rely on for their livelihoods, such as livestock pens, bathroom facilities, and storage sheds."
Officials also "confiscate water tanks and solar panels from communities that are not hooked up to the water or power grids, as well as vehicles used for farming and other equipment."
B'Tselem emphasises that the demolitions are a "governmental policy, implemented systematically for years," constituting "the forced transfer of protected Palestinian residents within the occupied territory, in breach of international humanitarian law."
The NGO says that "the extensive demolitions are part of a broader Israeli policy in Area C", based "on the approach that this area, which spans some 60 percent of the West Bank, is intended primarily to serve Israeli needs."
"Accordingly, Israel acts to establish facts on the ground and to create a reality that it will be difficult to change in any future agreement. These measures include exploiting natural resources, establishing settlements, and expanding existing ones."
"At the same time, it has been the longstanding policy of various Israeli governments to displace and expel Palestinian residents from Area C, under flimsy pretexts such as "illegal construction" – a spurious claim given the absence of any real possibility for Palestinians to build legally in the area."
Demolitions by year (Until 30 June 2016)
|Year||Housing units||People left homeless||Minors left homeless|
Table data from btselem.org