Senior United Nations officials on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territory yesterday urged Israel to halt its demolition of Palestinian properties, expressing “serious concern” over events in Khan Al-Ahmar, a village slated for destruction.
Humanitarian Coordinator, Jamie McGoldrick, the Head of West Bank Operations for UNRWA, Scott Anderson, and the Head of the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, James Heenan, spoke out as Israeli forces began preparations this week for the planned demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar and the expulsion of its residents.
What we are seeing unfold on the ground is deeply disturbing. Demolitions have a devastating impact on families and on communities.
He added: “These demolitions are particularly outrageous because they target communities who already live in extremely difficult conditions, with high levels of humanitarian needs. I call again on the Israeli authorities to cease demolitions and other measures that may result in the forcible transfer of Palestinians.”
The UN press release noted that “a wave of demolitions across the West Bank in recent days”, with 59 Palestinians displaced since 1 July, including 37 children.
“The escalation of events in the last few days – the demolitions in Abu Nuwar, the declaration of the Khan Al-Ahmar community as a closed military zone, the violence and large presence of armed Israeli forces – makes life in these communities virtually untenable,” said Anderson.
“The latest developments are of serious concern as it is evident that they are undertaken with the objective of relocating the concerned communities, as well as causing serious distress to the vulnerable residents who are watching what appear to be preparations for the demolition of their community.”
He added: “These pastoral communities are mostly Palestine refugees – originally displaced from their tribal lands in the Negev. They should not be forced to experience a second displacement against their will.”
“The demolitions in the community will have serious human rights and humanitarian law consequences,” said Heenan. “There is high risk of forced evictions of individuals, destruction of private property as well as a dramatic increase in the coercive environment under which the community already lives, in turn raising the risk of forcible transfer.”
According to the UN,
the extensive demolition of property [by an occupying power], not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, may be a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and may amount to a war crime.