On Monday morning, 22 July 2019, Israeli military forces launched a large-scale destruction operation against civilian property in Wadi al-Humus neighborhood, in Sour Baher, south of occupied East Jerusalem. Hundreds of Israeli soldiers and machinery carried out the destructions that resulted in hundreds of civilians losing their shelter. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns this crime against civilians and considers it on par for ethnic cleansing, and holds the Israeli government accountable for escalating the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). PCHR calls upon the international community to hold its legal and moral responsibility and intervene effectively to stop Israeli crimes against Palestinian civilians and to provide necessary protection.
According to PCHR’s documentation, at approximately 2:00 on Monday, 22 July 2019, hundreds of Israeli soldiers moved into Sour Baher village with dozens of construction vehicles. They stationed in Wadi al-Humus neighborhood, closed its entrances and cut all power supplies. Israeli soldiers then forcefully vacated buildings in the neighborhood, used physical violence against them and banned them from taking any of their belongings with them. At approximately 06:00, destruction machinery took to work and preliminary numbers assert that at least 8 houses and buildings were destroyed, and explosives were planted in a 10-story building in order to destroy it. The destroyed houses include:
- Isma’il ‘Ebeidiyah: a 2-sotry house built on 250 square meters and sheltering a 7-member family, including 5 children;
- Ghaleb Hawan and his son Monther: a 2-story house built on 210 square meters and sheltering a 10-member family, including 6 children;
- Belal al-Kiswani: a 1-story house sheltering a 5-member family, including 3 children;
- ‘Alaa’ ‘Amirah: a 2-story house built on 400 square meters (uninhabited)
- Mohammed Idris Abu Teir: a 7-story building comprised of 40 residential apartments (under-construction)
- Ja’afar Abu Hamed: a 1-story house (under-construction);
- Mohammed Salem al-Atrash: a 4-sotry building (under-construction); and
- ‘Ali Khalil Hamadah: a 4-sotry building (under-construction)
It should be mentioned that on 13 June 2019, the Israeli High Court approved the Israeli military’s decision to demolish 16 residential buildings comprised of 100 apartments in Wadi al-Humus neighborhood under the pretext of being near the annexation wall which was established on the village’s lands. On 20 June 2019, the Israeli forces handed tens of residents notices to self-demolish their property by 18 July or the Israeli forces will later do so. On 21 July 2019, the Israeli High Court rejected the appeal filed by the residents to freeze the demolition orders, and within hours the Israeli forces stormed the neighborhood and started the demolitions.
Wadi al-Humus neighborhood (area: 3,000 dunums; population: 6000) is located on the edge of Sour Baher, south of occupied East Jerusalem. The neighbourhood is not within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and most of its lands are classified in Area A that is under full control of the Palestinian Authority according to the Oslo Accords; thus, the buildings’ owners obtained construction licences from the Palestinian Ministry of Local Governance. Following the construction of the annexation wall in 2003, the neighbourhood was split as some houses ended up in the Israeli side but not under jurisdiction of the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem.
PCHR deeply condemns the Israeli forces’ violations against Wadi al-Humus neighbourhood and affirms that:
First: the international community’s silence towards the Israeli violations, especially the destruction of an entire neighbourhood and displacement of its residents, reflects the inability of international bodies to protect international humanitarian law, as well as hundreds of United Nations resolutions issued over the past seven decades relevant to the Palestinian cause.
Second: PCHR reiterates that the Israeli judicial system, including the High Court, acts in support of the occupation and legitimizes its violations of IHL when the issues concern Palestinian victims.
Third: PCHR stresses that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory, and all measures taken by Israel since 1967 do not change its legal status as an occupied territory.
Fourth: Article (49) of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention prohibited the Individual or mass forcible transfer or deportation of persons from their places of residence, unless it was for their own interest, such as protecting them from the dangers of armed conflicts. Article 7.1.d of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court stipulates that Deportation or forcible transfer of population be considered a crime against humanity when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population. This is also emphasized in articles 6, 7, and 8 of the Rome Statute.
Israeli soldiers kill one Palestinian, injure many in Jerusalem
IMEMC 28 June — Israeli soldiers and the police invaded, on Thursday evening, the al-‘Issawiya town, north of occupied East Jerusalem, killed a young Palestinian man, and injured many other residents, in addition to imposing a strict siege on the town. Media sources said the soldiers invaded Obeid neighborhood in the town, and attacked many Palestinians while inspecting their ID cards, in addition to searching homes and shops. They added that the soldiers fired many live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs and concussion grenades at Palestinian youngsters protesting the invasion. Local nonviolent activist, Yousef Obeid, said the soldiers killed a former political prisoner, identified as Mohammad Samir Obeid, 21, after shooting him with several bullets, including a live round in the heart. He added that the soldiers also injured four other Palestinians, causing mild-to-moderate wounds. After killing the young man, the soldiers took his body away, and assaulted several Palestinians with clubs and batons. Furthermore, the soldiers imposed a strict siege on the town, and prevented the residents, including ambulances, from entering or leaving it. An eyewitness, who was standing next to the slain Palestinian, said the soldiers shot him with three live rounds from a close range, including the fatal round in the heart, and one that struck him in his leg, and added that the shooting had no cause or justification, especially since it was carried out an hour after the nonviolent protest ended. His statements, alongside other witnesses, contradict allegations by the police that the slain young man “lit firecrackers in the direction of the police,’” allegedly “endangering their lives.” … The killing of the young man also led to protests in the neighborhoods and towns of Wadi al-Jouz, at-Tour, al-‘Issawiya, Shu’fat, Shu’fat refugee camp and Abu Dis.
Israeli forces hit rally against police abuse
JERUSALEM (AP) 28 June — Palestinians claim Israeli forces attacked them after a peaceful rally against police brutality in east Jerusalem. Forty-nine-year-old witness Abed Zamzam says that after prayers on Thursday, Israeli police were patrolling a rally of several hundred Palestinians in the neighborhood of ‘Issawiya. Zamzam says they beat the residents after fatally shooting 20-year-old Mohammed Obeid. A cellphone video shows a policeman kicking a Palestinian already on the ground as an officer was arresting him. The protests continued Friday.
And here is what precipitated the whole business:
‘Army abducts sixteen Palestinians in West Bank’
IMEMC 23 June — The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported that Israeli soldiers abducted, overnight until morning hours Sunday, at least sixteen Palestinians, including children, from several parts of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The PPS said the soldiers stormed and ransacked dozens of homes in the al-‘Issawiya town, in Jerusalem, and abducted Husam ‘Oleyyan, Abdul-Qader Dari, Mohammad Rafat Dari, Akram Mustafa, Majd Bashir Ahmad, Noureddin Mheisin, Ibrahim Abu Sneina, and Ayyoub Abu al-Hummus. It added that the soldiers also invaded and searched homes in the al-Wad Street, in the Old City of Jerusalem, before abducting Abada Najeeb, Mahmoud Najeeb and Ibrahim Abu Sneina. In Hebron, in southern West Bank, the soldiers abducted Firas Fares Moghannam, 40, after searching his home, along with the home of a former political prisoner, identified as Salim Mohammad Moghannam, and Mohammad Khalil Abu Shaker….
Action is needed to protect them and tens of thousands more who risk losing their homes under Israel’s devastating home demolition policies.
Israeli’s home demolition policy has led to the destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes (like this one in Hebron in the West Bank) and the forced displacement of thousands of Palestinians.
Tears streaming down her face, the little girl in front of me crawled over the ruins of her home looking for toys and school books that could be salvaged from among the rubble and destruction. The night before, the Israeli army had evacuated her family from their house, set explosives, and destroyed their home.
It was 2001, and it was the first time I witnessed the devastation wrought by Israel’s decades-old home demolition policy. During the nearly two decades since then, I’ve talked with hundreds of Palestinians who have been forced out of their homes by the Israeli government. Their stories are all unique, but the result of Israel’s home demolition policy is always the same – destruction and suffering within families and communities.
Just last week, the Israeli High Court ruled that the government can move forward with the demolition of 60 buildings in Jerusalem that are home to over 500 Palestinian families. Demolitions have already begun, and thousands of Palestinians will be left without homes if this move is not stopped.
The remains of homes demolished in Nablus in the West Bank. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSC
The Israeli government justifies these demolitions by claiming that the homes in question were built illegally without permits from the city. But for decades, the city has refused to approve zoning plans for Palestinian areas of Jerusalem, making it impossible for Palestinian residents to obtain permits and leaving them no choice but to build without permission. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, there are now over 20,000 housing units built without permits in East Jerusalem, all of which are at risk of demolition.
At the same time, the Jerusalem municipality is moving to retroactively approve construction carried out by the settler group Elad in the same neighborhood from which these 500 Palestinian families will soon be displaced.
This forced displacement will not just traumatize families, it will destroy a whole community. During the seven years I lived and worked in the West Bank, I saw this happen over and over – and I documented the harmful impacts. In 2008, I received an update from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that a home was being demolished in East Jerusalem, near the office where I worked. I traveled to the scene of the demolition and saw devastated family members break down as they watched the walls of their home fall.
At the time I was managing a program to assist Palestinian families whose homes were destroyed by Israel. Through our interviews with families, it became clear that the demolitions had deep, long-term negative impacts on family structures – increasing poverty and unemployment, raising levels of domestic violence, disrupting education, and leading to severe trauma for all those impacted.
A resident digs out belongings from the ruins of his destroyed home in Jenin. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSC
The demolition of 60 buildings in Jerusalem that was recently approved is unusual in its scale, but it is not unique. In the West Bank, tens of communities – including Umm Al-Khair, Susiya, and Khan al-Ahmar – remain under threat of complete destruction.
Palestinians block Israel’s new ‘Apartheid Road’
Over a dozen Palestinian activists, along with Israeli and international supporters, blockaded the entrance to Israel’s new ‘Apartheid Road’ in the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem on Wednesday morning.
The group of activists closed the gates to the newly opened road and formed a human chain, raising banners in Arabic, English, and Hebrew saying “No to Apartheid” and “No to Annexation.”
Israeli forces arrived to the scene, which is located adjacent to an Israeli military base, shortly after the activists closed the road and attempted to forcibly remove them.
Two protesters were arrested and at least four others were injured. One of the detained protesters was identified as Ibrahim Musalem, from the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Palestinian activist Munther Amira, who participated in the protest, said “any shame the [Israeli] Occupation may have had of its apartheid policies is now completely gone with this road. We must not and will not allow for their plan of ethnic cleansing in the outskirts of Jerusalem.”
On Sunday, February 25, church leaders from the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian Apostolic churches in Jerusalem shut down the Church of the Holy Sepulcher until further notice. They did so in protest of a new municipal law demanding that church leaders pay over $190 million to the state of Israel in back taxes on church properties that were formerly tax exempt.
The new law is part of an ongoing campaign to target and push out Palestinians in the holy city of Jerusalem. We stand with these church leaders in their boycott of this gross injustice, which is meant to make it more difficult if not impossible for Palestinian Christians to continue to live in Jerusalem. Sacred lands are never for sale. We raise outcry over the mass displacement of all Palestinians, whether Muslim or Christian, from Jerusalem. We support the leadership of the churches in boycotting injustice, and we call on church leaders around the world to follow their lead, heeding international calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions on Israel until it complies with basic standards of international law and ends its decades long campaign to wipe out the indigenous Palestinian population.
Statements From Church Leaders in Jerusalem
FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. POLITICAL PERSECUTION LEADS TO THE CLOSURE OF CHRISTIANITY’S HOLIEST SITE
The leaders of Jerusalem’s churches have today announced the unprecedented decision to close the Church of the Holy Sepulchre until further notice, in protest at persistent moves to intimidate Christians and discriminate against churches in the Holy Land. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which dates back to the fourth century, is considered to contain the sites of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, making it the holiest site in the world for Christians.
The decision to close the Holy Sepulchre comes in response to recent actions by the Jerusalem Municipality and by members of the Israeli Knesset. The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, is attempting to enforce a punitive and retroactive tax on church properties in the Holy City. Furthermore, Knesset member, Rachel Azaria (“Kulanu” party) is seeking to advance the “Bill of Church Lands”, which would give the Israeli government the power to confiscate church property. These actions contravene the long held Status Quo which is foundational to the guarantee of the churches’ rights and privileges in the Holy Land; and critically undermines the ability of churches to carry out their pastoral mission of housing the community, feeding the poor, caring for refugees, running schools for local children and maintaining the holy sites. Above all, they imperil the continuation of the Christian presence in Jerusalem.
The closure was announced on Sunday by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Catholic Custos of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarch. Their joint statement argues that ‘the systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land’ has ‘reached an unprecedented level as the Jerusalem municipality issued scandalous collection notices and orders of seizure of Church assets, properties and bank accounts for alleged debts of punitive municipal taxes.’ The statement also highlights the ‘discriminatory and racist bill that targets solely the properties of the Christian community in the Holy Land.’
Both developments come in a period when Christians are suffering an escalating campaign of intimidation from radical settler groups. Churches face daily desecration and vandalism and Christians are regularly subjected to violent assault as they travel to pray. These groups have long used intimidation, bribery and extreme anti-social behaviour in an attempt to force Christians and other non-Jews out of the Holy City. While their actions clearly contravene Israeli law their crimes go largely unchecked.
Statement on Municipal threats and the discriminatory “Church Lands Bill” 25.02.2018
We, the heads of Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulcher and the Status Quo governing the various Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem – the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Custody of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarchate – are following with great concern the systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land, in flagrant violation of the existing Status Quo.
Recently, this systematic and offensive campaign has reached an unprecedented level as the Jerusalem municipality issued scandalous collection notices and orders of seizure of Church assets, properties and bank accounts for alleged debts of punitive municipal taxes. A step that is contrary to the historic position of the Churches within the Holy City of Jerusalem and their relationship with the civil authorities. These actions breach existing agreements and international obligations which guarantee the rights and the privileges of the Churches, in what seems as an attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem. The greatest victims in this are those impoverished families who will go without food and housing, as well as the children who will be unable to attend school.