Under the Israeli occupation forces’ (IOF) collective punishment policy against Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks against Israeli soldiers or/and settlers, IOF demolished 4 houses in Beit Kahel village, northwest of Hebron early on Thursday, 28 November 2019. As such, the number of houses IOF demolished on the same grounds in 2019 raised to 13: 7 in Hebron, 4 in Ramallah and al-Bierh and 2 in Salfit. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns this new crime, and emphasizes that it falls under a series of Israeli crimes within its collective punishment policy against innocent Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits collective penalties and reprisals against protected persons and their property. PCHR calls upon the international community to offer protection to the civilians in the oPt and ensure the application of the Geneva convention.
According to PCHR’s investigations and eyewitnesses’ statements, IOF backed by military construction vehicles and accompanied with armored personnel carriers, a bulldozer and 2 excavators, moved into Beit Kahel village, northwest of Hebron, and stationed in the center of the village. The soldiers stepped out of their military vehicles, deployed between residential houses and closed the main road and sub-roads leading to the village. IOF raided 4 houses in a prelude to demolishing them, noting that their owners were informed of the demolition decision on 03 November 2019. The families vacated the houses’ contents. IOF had accused members of these families of carrying out a stab attack on 08 August 2018, near “Gush Etzion“ settlement, south of Bethlehem, and killed Israeli settler David Soreek. IOF had raided the houses in question on 27 August 2019 and took their measurements. On 12 November 2019, IOF informed the families’ lawyer that they should vacate their houses within 48 hours as a prelude to demolish them. These houses belong to:
- Sa’ied ‘Atiyah Mahmoud Zohour (46): a 1-storey 200sqm house. IOF accused Sa’ied’s son, Yousef (22), of being involved in the stab attack. Yousef was arrested on 20 August 2019.
- Saleh Khalil al-‘Asafrah (60): a 100sqm apartment located on the 2nd floor. IOF accused Saleh’s son, Naseer (35), of being involved in the stab attack. Naseer was arrested on 10 August 2019.
- Qasem ‘Aref Khalil ‘Asafrah (34): a 1-storey 145sqm house. IOF accused him with his wife, Inas Nabil Mohamed ‘Asafrah (28), of being involved in the incident. Both of them were arrested on 10 August 2019.
- Ahmed ‘Aref Khalil ‘Asafarah (34): a 1-storey 120sqm house. IOF accused him of being involved in the incident and he was arrested on 10 August 2019.
In the meantime, dozens of Palestinian young men gathered near the targeted houses, threw stones and empty bottles at IOF and set tires on fire. IOF responded with heavy firing of tear gas canisters, causing suffocation and fainting among civilians. At approximately 04:30, IOF withdrew after all houses were demolished.
PCHR condemns the crime of house demolitions, and considers such actions to be part of the Israeli collective punishment policy employed against Palestinian civilians. PCHR reminds that this policy is internationally prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.” Hence, PCHR reiterates its call upon the international community to take immediate action to put an end to Israeli crimes, and upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1 to respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances; as well as their obligations under Article 146 to prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions regarding the guarantee of Palestinian civilians’ right to protection in the oPt.