Israeli Occupation Forces have escalated their systematic campaign against Palestinian civilian construction activities in areas under their full control according to the Oslo Accords signed by the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993. Areas classified as Areas C in the West Bank are currently subjected to extensive Israeli campaigns aimed at undermining the Palestinian presence. Israel is also expanding construction activities in settlements and the annexation of new areas of Palestinian lands in Area C, including occupied East Jerusalem and its surroundings. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns all these measures taken by Israel and stresses the legal status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). PCHR calls upon the international community to urgently and promptly take serious action to compel the government of Israel, the occupying power, to put an end to all illegal measures. The international community’s inaction with respect to the impunity granted to Israel encourages Israel to commit further violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, the Organization and Construction Department of the Israeli Civil Administration issued 35 orders to demolish or stop construction works in houses and other civilian facilities in Areas C. In addition, the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem issued an order to demolish an apartment building of 25 flats in occupied East Jerusalem. Approximately 275 individuals, including 180 children, live in these houses and apartments. According to Palestinian sources, since the beginning of 2009, Israel has issued approximately 2,300 demolition orders.
Recently, Israel issued orders to demolish or stop construction works in Palestinian houses or civilian establishment as follows:
· On 8 November 2009, the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem issued a decision to bulldoze an apartment building belonging to Sharhabil ‘Alqam in Tal al-Foul quarter in Beit Hanina village, north of Jerusalem. ‘Alqam began construction works in his apartment building in 2002 on an area of 500 m2. The 7-storey building is composed of 25 residential apartments and was sold to Palestinian families comprising more than 150 members.
· On 12 October 2009, Israeli forces delivered notices to stop construction works in 12 houses and in a bird farm in al-Salahat area in Roujib village, east of Nablus. Five of the threatened houses are resided by 33 individuals, including 22 children.
· Also on 12 November 2009, Israeli forces delivered notices to 11 Palestinian civilians to demolish or stop construction works in houses and establishments in Um al-Kheir area to southeast of Yatta village, south of Hebron. The notices threaten 17 establishments, including residential houses where 57 individuals, including 39 children, live. The majority of the owners of the threatened establishments are members of the Bedouin al-Hathalin tribe. The owners of these establishments stated that notices were delivered to demolish or stop construction works in establishments that are between 50 and 300 meters to the north of the fence of “Karme’el” settlement.
· On 18 November 2009, Israeli forces delivered notices to demolish five houses in ‘Azzoun village, east of Qalqilia. The houses, home to 35 individuals, including 20 children, are located in the east of ‘Azzoun village where the Israeli settlement of “Ma’ale Shamron” is being established.
· Israeli forces also delivered a notice to al-Bireh Municipality to stop construction works in al-Bira Municipality’s International Stadium under the pretext of the lack of a building license. Sources from al-Bira Municipality stated that the Israeli Civil Administration in “Beit Eil” settlement delivered a notice to the contractor to stop construction works in the Stadium under the pretext of lacking a building license saying the project is in Area C.
In light of the above, PCHR reiterates that:
First: according to International Humanitarian Law and numerous UN Resolutions, the Palestinian West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip are classified as occupied territory.
Second: the natural growth of the Palestinian families requires that these families implement construction activities in order to meet their growing living needs. Because of the complications of getting building licenses, Palestinians are forced to carry out construction works above their houses to meet their residential needs.
Third: Settlement activities in OPT are illegal and constitute a war crime. Israeli forces apply an apartheid system regarding construction works in Palestinian villages on one hand and in Israeli settlements on the other.
PCHR strongly condemns Israel’s recent measures and all settlement activities and plans in the occupied West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, and calls upon:
1. The High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their legal and moral obligations under Article 1 of the Convention to ensure Israel’s respect for the Convention in the OPT. PCHR believes that the conspiracy of silence practiced by the international community has encouraged Israel to act as if it is above the law and to continue to violate international human rights and humanitarian law, including continued measures to create a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem.
2. The international community to take urgent and prompt action in order to compel the government of Israel to put an end to all settlement activities in the OPT, especially in occupied East Jerusalem, and to dismantle Israeli settlements, which constitute a war crime under International Humanitarian Law.
3. The European Union/ EU member States to activate Article 2 of the Euro-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that Israel must respect human rights as a precondition for economic cooperation between the EU States and Israel. PCHR further calls upon the EU States to prohibit importation of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the OPT.