In the largest West Bank demolition operation in a decade, Israeli military authorities on Tuesday razed around 70 structures in the Jordan Valley’s Humsa al-Fuqa community in the occupied West Bank. Locals reported that six bulldozers, accompanied by around 100 Israeli soldiers, carried out the demolitions, leaving 11 Palestinian families homeless.
Among the demolished structures were those seemingly funded by the European Union and other European governmental and non-governmental institutions.
“They startled us with no prior notification,” says Abdul-Ghani Awawdeh, 52, who lost every residential structure on the land where he lives, including animal shelters, water tanks and solar system units. Israeli forces also confiscated his car.
Awawdeh’s wife, Fadwa Abu Awwad, noted that the demolitions were happening at the “worst time of the year” in terms of the weather. She said she spent the first night following the demolition trying to protect her family’s furniture from rain, after sending her children to a nearby community.
“We slept on the ground covered with a plastic bag,” Awawdeh added.
The Awawdeh family said they have been renting the land from Palestinian owners for over 60 years in order to herd animals, and confirmed this was the first time they witnessed an Israeli demolition. However, they remained uncertain as to whether it was a one-off or a sign of things to come.
A little over a mile away from Awawdeh’s family, 11 members of Abu al-Kebash family also saw all of their structures and animal shelters razed. Ahmad Abu al-Kebash, 23, said the family has been renting the land from another Palestinian family for around 70 years, and that this was not the first time the Israeli military had conducted demolitions, confiscations or evacuations at the site.
“This demolition is like no other. They left nothing,” said Ahmad, while sheltering in a tent provided by the Palestinian Red Crescent following the demolition.
Dafna Banai, an Israeli who has been active in the Jordan Valley for the past 13 years, called it the “worst demolition” she’d seen during her time in the area.
Israel insists that Humsa al-Fuqa’s residents do not have property rights on the land where they live,