Posted on 11 February 2021

Humsa al Bqai'a | Flash Update #2

Highlights

  • On 8 February, the Israeli Civil Administration, accompanied by the military, returned to the Palestinian Bedouin community of Humsa - Al Bqai’a in the Jordan Valley and confiscated or demolished another 16 residential and animal structures. Thirteen were donor-funded and had been provided as a humanitarian response to two incidents on 1 and 3 February, in which 46 structures were demolished or confiscated.
  • Nine households in this part of the community, comprising 60 people, including 35 children, were again displaced and are at heightened risk of forcible transfer. Their vulnerability is compounded by winter and by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • During the confiscations on 8 February, the Civil Administration informed the community that any new structure rebuilt or donated would be demolished or confiscated. Residents were ordered again to move to a relocation site near the village of Ein Shibli (“Proposed relocation site” on the map), 15 kilometers away by road.
  • Despite indications that they would restrain their longstanding policy of demolishing inhabited Palestinian homes during the pandemic, since the start of 2021, the Israeli authorities have demolished, seized or forced people to demolish at least 178 Palestinian- owned structures, displacing over 259 people, including some 140 children.

Displaced children in Humsa - Al Bqai'a, 4 February 2021. Photo by OHCHR oPt

For more on the general and legal background, please see Flash Update #1.

Situation overview

The Bedouin community of Humsa Al Bqai’a, located in Area C in the northern Jordan Valley, has suffered from four large demolitions and confiscations since 2014. The demolition of 3 November 2020, constituted the largest recorded since 2009 and resulted in 73 people, including 41 children, left without a home. 

Recent events on 1 and 3 February, resulted in the demolition by the Israeli Civil Administration confiscated of over 46 different structures, including 17 donor-funded structures, displacing over 60 people, including 35 children. According to community representatives, the community was informed by the Civil Administration that they had been assigned to a relocation site near the village of Ein Shibli, 15 kilometres away by road, where their confiscated structures would be returned. The Civil Administration also indicated that they would remove the remaining structures in the part of Humsa Al Bqai’a in the firing zone, if the community did not comply with the verbal order within 24 hours. These events triggered a joint visit of NGO, UN and EU Member States to the village on 5 February and calls by the international community to halt demolitions. 

Humanitarian response & most recent events

  • Scattered personal belongings, following further demolitions, Humsa Al Bqai'a, 8 February 2021, Photo by OCHA oPtInitial Assesment of Needs and delivery of Emergency Assistance 1-3 February -  As is normal practice, the humanitarian community undertook a humanitarian needs and demolition assessment following the demolitions / confiscation on 1 February. This triggered an initial distribution of emergency shelters, food and essential household items by humanitarian partners, including the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), as well as the Palestinian Authority. A proportion of this was confiscated and / or damaged by Israeli forces on Wednesday 3 February.
  • Further Assessment on 4 February -  Further assessment of the situation was undertaken by the humanitarian field team on Thursday 4 February to assess additional needs for the families directly impacted by this most recent demolitions and  confiscations. Very basic emergency shelters, food and some essential household items were again provided to the community, in addition to some cash assistance.
  • Advocacy Visit 4 February - On Thursday 4 February, an advocacy visit involving the diplomatic and humanitarian community was organized.   The delegation was given permission to access the site and was able to meet with community members.
  • Provision of Additional Assistance 6 February - Following this visit on Saturday 6 February, members of the West Bank Protection Consortium provide 10 unassembled residential tents to provide protection for the community against the harsh winter weather.
  • Further Confiscation of Newly Delivered Assistance 8 February - Just two days later, on Monday 8 February, two of the residential tents provided on Saturday, which had been erected, were deconstructed and confiscated along with other emergency shelters provided by the PRCS.

The majority of shelter assistance provided to the community in the last week has now been confiscated. PRCS managed to provide five emergency shelters on the night of Monday 8 February, but outside of the demolition site itself, to avoid further confiscation. Due to the lack of shelter, the women and children in the community are staying in tents, while most men are sleeping outside in the open air, while continuing to look after their livestock during the day. Due to the heavy military presence and fear of further confiscation/interception of aid, other partners have also chosen to deliver assistance in nearby communities, which Humsa community members can access from Humsa Al Bqai’a.

The humanitarian field team is continuing to assess the needs of the community, however, to prevent further confiscations and placing the community at greater risk, the support of the broader international community to negotiate humanitarian access to provide assistance with the Israel Authorities is critical.