Israeli bulldozers flanked by soldiers demolished Khirbet Humsa, a small Arab Bedouin village in the Jordan Valley in the occupied Palestinian West Bank on Tuesday morning, November 3, rendering around 73 Palestinians — including 41 children — homeless, according to the United Nations.
Israeli human rights activists visited Khirbet Humsa, close to the West Bank city of Tubas, on Wednesday, finding destroyed tents, smashed solar panels, and broken water tanks. Some of the equipment had been purchased with European funding. B’Tselem said that around 75 structures were demolished, including 18 tents and cabins, which housed around 11 families. The demolition was the largest in over a decade, according to the UN.
B’Tselem, a human rights group that tracks Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza, accused Israel of deliberately conducting the demolitions while world attention was focused on the US elections. “The wiping off of a whole community at once is extremely rare,” said Amit Gilutz, a spokesperson for B’Tselem. “It seems like Israel was making use of the fact that everyone’s attention is currently set elsewhere to move forward with this inhumane act.” According to B’Tselem, 798 Palestinians in the West Bank have been left homeless by Israeli demolitions so far this year, the highest number since the rights group began collecting data in 2016.
Yvonne Helle, the Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim for the occupied Palestinian territory, said, “I remind that the extensive destruction of property and the forcible transfer of protected people in an occupied territory are grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. While assuring that the humanitarian community stands ready to support all those who have been displaced or otherwise affected, I strongly reiterate our call to Israel to immediately halt unlawful demolitions,”
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned the demolitions, which he called a “methodical destruction of the possibility of a Palestinian state.”
Israel declared the area to be a live-fire zone in 1972, according to court filings. Khirbet Humsa’s residents appealed to Israel’s High Court of Justice to cancel their campsite’s impending demolition. In 2019, the court rejected the petition and ruled the Bedouin herders had no right to stay in the area. According to a document reviewed by the High Court in early August, in 1981 future Prime Minister Ariel Sharon explicitly told a Knesset committee meeting on West Bank settlement that the military would declare some areas to be training zones to check “the spread of Arab hill-villagers.” “There are places which we have an interest in declaring live-fire zones to ensure that they remain in our hands,” Sharon, who was then Settlement Minister, told the committee.