Israeli forces demolished some 15 structures in Khirbet Tana this morning, including homes and the only school in the small hamlet which is located on the outskirts of the village of Beit Furik in the Jordan Valley in the northeastern occupied West Bank.
The village was demolished at least four times over the course of 2016, leaving scores of Bedouin Palestinians homeless, sparking condemnation from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which warned that the village was at risk of “forcible transfer” by Israeli authorities.
A Palestinian official who monitors settler activities in the northern West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas, told Ma’an that several Israeli military vehicles stormed Khirbet Tana and declared the area a closed military zone.
Bulldozers then demolished 15 structures, including residences, barns and the sole school of the village, which also serves other nearby communities.
According to state-run Palestinian news agency Wafa, the school was built with funding from the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection of the European Commission and was opened in November.
Israeli soldiers also reportedly confiscated three vehicles during the military raid.
Majid Afif, a resident of Khirbet Tana, told Wafa after Israeli army bulldozers demolished his home: “We now live in the open and cold air… [but] we are not going to give up. We are going to rebuild our village.”
“Palestinian communities like Khirbet Tana are amongst the most vulnerable in the West Bank,” Robert Piper, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, said in a statement back in March 2016, after three separate demolitions in the first three months of that year left 87 of the village’s 250 residents homeless.
In April, 34 more structures in the village were demolished in a single day, displacing 69 Palestinians, 29 of them children. Many of the demolished structures had been provided by donors as relief after earlier demolitions. According to Wafa, demolitions in Khirbet Tana in 2016 targeted 150 structures, displacing a total of 214 people.
Khirbet Tana lies in an Israeli-declared military training zone, known as a “firing zone,” which rights groups say Israel intends to fully annex. Communities that find themselves inside declared “firing zones” face a high risk of losing their livelihoods, homes, and schools.
“The destruction of the relief provided to these households in these harsh winter conditions adds insult to injury,” Piper wrote in his statement at the time. “Destroying homes and livelihoods in order to place pressure on households to move places communities at risk of ‘forcible transfer’, a grave breach of the laws of occupation.”
Nearly 20 per cent of the occupied West Bank has been declared “firing zones” since the 1970s, but according to the UN, recent research shows that nearly 80 per cent of these areas are not in fact used for military training.