The Israeli army demolished more homes in Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday morning. The homes and property of Palestinian families in the villages of Hadidiya, Jiftlik and Furush Beit Dajan, in the Jordan Valley area of the occupied West Bank, were demolished.
Amnesty International's researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories witnessed the demolitions. Donatella Rovera described the scene:
"In all the places, most of the people are children. These homes mostly have three generations – the grandparents, parents and children. In Hadidiya, there were four families, in Furush Beit Dajan, five families.
"All of the people have had homes demolished before, but this time they had no warning. The people were very, very upset. They were running to get their things out of their homes, but the bulldozer just went on demolishing."
Soldiers of the Israeli army arrived early in the morning in jeeps accompanied by a bulldozer and then demolished the buildings where the four families were living. The destroyed properties belonged to Mohammed Fahed Bani Odeh, Mohammed Ali Shaikh Bani Odeh, Ali Shaikh Musleh Bani Odeh and Omar 'Arif Mohammed Bisharat and their families – at least 34 people, including some 26 children.
After destroying these homes, the soldiers moved on to destroy homes and livelihoods in Jiftlik and Furush Beit Dajan, where homes have previously been demolished in recent months.
"In Jiftlik, they are destroying a farm – it is one of the rare farms here and there is otherwise not much livelihood for the people. They first bulldozed the vegetable area a couple of months ago; then they bulldozed the home last month," said Donatella Rovera.
"The family of Mahmud Mat'ab Da'ish, his wife and seven children were given a tent by the Red Cross and they started planting vegetables again. Today, the army has been bulldozing the green plants.
"In all three locations the soldiers haven't allowed us to get near, I don't even know if they have a military order to destroy everything - we asked them but they didn't show us anything."
The families in Hadidiya have lived in the same area for generations, herding sheep and goats and cultivating land on the Jordan hills. They have come under increasing pressure from the Israeli army to leave the area. The same four families had their homes destroyed in February this year and other homes were demolished several times by the Israeli army in 2007.
The demolitions are part of intensified efforts by the Israeli army to expel Palestinians from the area of the Jordan Valley. Much of the Jordan Valley, including the Hadidiya area, has been designated by the Israeli authorities as a "closed military area" and the army has been exerting increased pressure on local Palestinian villagers to force them to out of the area.
For years, the Israeli authorities have pursued a policy of discriminatory house demolition, on the one hand allowing scores of Israeli settlements to be built on occupied Palestinian land, in breach of international law, while simultaneously confiscating Palestinian lands, refusing building permits for Palestinians and destroying their homes. The land vacated has often been used to build illegal Israeli settlements. International law forbids occupying powers from settling their own citizens in the territories they occupy.
The demolitions come one day after the Israeli government came under international criticism for approving the construction of hundreds of new houses for Israelis in the Givat Ze'ev settlement north of Jerusalem. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the government to "halt settlement expansion" in the West Bank. Javier Solana, the European Union (EU)'s foreign policy chief, said the EU opposed the move to expand the settlement.