Since the demolition, the ICA has not allowed any humanitarian assistance to be delivered to the part of the community which remains at the site, with the sole exception of some water bottles today. Having repeatedly been refused access, humanitarian organizations were allowed to access the demolition site for only a few minutes today. Some people remain at the site of the demolition, while the majority of women and children have temporarily moved to a nearby hamlet. There, they have received some initial humanitarian assistance.
The ICA maintains that the residents of Humsa – Al Bqai’a have settled illegally in a military restricted training area: See position under International humanitarian law below. The ICA has repeatedly requested the community to move to a different location, which they have consistently refused. Yesterday the military transported the community’s belongings to this location, where they remain, unguarded. The repeated destruction of their homes and property, including assistance provided by the humanitarian community, is having a devastating economic, social and traumatic impact on the community, particularly children.
During the mass demolition incidents in February 2021, the international community visited Humsa – Al Bqai’a several times and expressed support for the residents. On 7 July, Lynn Hastings, the Humanitarian Coordinator, tweeted that “The UN and members of the international community have repeatedly called for the Israeli Government to cease unilateral actions including demolitions in the West Bank. Residents of Humsa – Al Bqai’a are a protected population; forcing them to leave their homes is contrary to the international law applicable in the West Bank.”
So far in 2021, the Israeli authorities have demolished, seized or forced people to demolish at least 421 Palestinian-owned structures, including 130 donor-funded, displacing 592 people, including some 320 children across the West Bank. This represents a 24 per cent increase in structures targeted, a near 110 per cent increase in donor-funded structures targeted, and over 50 per cent increase in people displaced, compared with the equivalent period in 2020.
For additional information on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Humsa - Al Bqai’a, please see the previous six Flash Updates.
The Palestinian Bedouin community of Humsa – Al Bqai’a, is located in Area C in the northern Jordan Valley, mostly in an area designated as a ‘firing zone’ for Israeli military training, where Palestinian residency or access is prohibited. Designated firing zones, which cover nearly 30 per cent of Area C, are home to 38 Palestinian Bedouin and herding communities with a population of 6,200. These are some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank, with limited access to education and health services, and water, sanitation, and electricity infrastructure. On numerous occasions since 2012, Humsa – Al Bqai’a has been temporarily displaced while the Israeli authorities carried out military trainings in the vicinity. OCHA has recorded over 50 such incidents during this period.
Humanitarian response & ongoing needs
Humanitarian organizations need full access to the community to properly provide humanitarian assistance.
International humanitarian law: Demolitions, displacement and the risk of forcible transfer
International humanitarian law (IHL) requires an occupying power to protect the population of the territory that it occupies, ensure its welfare and wellbeing, as well as the respect for its human rights. Any destruction of civilian property by the occupying power is prohibited, except when rendered absolutely necessary by military operations, which is not relevant in the West Bank where there are currently no active hostilities. The extensive demolition of property is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and may amount to a war crime. Other than for the security of the population or imperative military reasons, IHL further prohibits the transfer of the population of an occupied territory without the genuinely and fully informed consent of the affected people, regardless of the motive. Consent is not considered genuine in an environment marked by the use, or threat, of physical force, coercion, fear of violence or duress. In the absence of such consent, the transfer is forcible and constitutes a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.