By Ane Sommer Knudsen, Policy Advisor, DCA Office Middle East
At six in the morning the Israeli army moved in to the small village of Al Ganoub between Bethlehem and Hebron in the Palestinian West Bank. Two bulldozers demolished three water cisterns while soldiers kept community members away and confiscated their phones so no one could take pictures or film. A community member however managed to keep his mobile phone and filmed the events (see video – links below). Just a few weeks before, seven houses were demolished in the same village - among others the homes of the families whose cisterns was now destroyed.
The three destroyed cisterns were installed in 2014. Since 2010 DanChurchAid has installed and renovated 363 water cisterns in vulnerable farming and Bedouin communities in Area C of the West Bank. The cisterns are funded by the EU and Denmark. Every year, when the rain comes in autumn, the cisterns are filled - securing water for people and animals for the year to come.
Like all other local communities in Area C Al Ganoub is under pressure. The demolition of homes and other community structures, the lack of water and the fear of new demolitions make life increasingly difficult and increase the risk of the community being forced to leave their homes and land. Al Ganoub is located very close to an illegal Israeli settlement making the community particularly vulnerable.
So far during 2016, OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has registered nearly twice as many demolitions and confiscations of homes, residential tents, animal shelter, latrines and water cisterns as in 2015 (the vast majority in Area C of the West Bank under full Israeli military control, where the majority of the illegal Israeli settlements are located).
A significant part of the destroyed and confiscated structures are humanitarian aid – donated by the EU, EU member states and other donors to meet basic humanitarian needs. The amount of confiscated and destroyed aid structures has increased by 165% between 2015 and 2016.
“Destroying homes and humanitarian assistance violate the most basic principles of International Humanitarian Law. It is unbearable to watch our humanitarian projects being destroyed like this” says Antony Grange, Country Director for DanChurchAid in Palestine.
Frederica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, has stated that the EU is considering requesting economic compensation from Israel for demolished and confiscated aid.
“Things were improving for the farmers in Al Ganoub until a few weeks ago – especially due to the access to water. The community now risks being forced to leave their land – as way too many villages these days. We do what we can to help the community but I am very worried about the future for the Palestinians in these areas,” says Antony Grange.
The Israeli Authorities carry out demolitions in Area C with reference to lacking building permits. Such permits are basically impossible for Palestinians in Area C to obtain. It is the duty of Israel as the occupying power to secure that the basic needs of the Palestinian population are met and to secure unhindered access for humanitarian assistance.
The destruction took place on September 27th. We are telling the story now because we have now received documentation of the course of events.
You can watch a video of the demolition here: