Since 1967, the Israeli authorities have demolished approximately 25,000 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. This includes demolitions to allow for the expansion of Israeli settlements and settlement farms, the construction of the Annexation Wall and settler-only roads, closed military zones, military training areas, nature reserves, and punitive demolitions that amount to collective punishment, which is considered a war crime under international law. Widespread destruction of property not justified by absolute military necessity also amounts to a war crime and entails the breach of a number of human rights provisions, including the right to adequate housing and family.
According to Al-Haq documentation, Israel demolished 368 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank in 2012, including 44 in East Jerusalem. Demolitions in the first month of 2013 increased by almost 30 per cent compared to the same period last year (from 34 in January 2012 to 44 in January 2013).
Countless Palestinian homes are demolished by the Israeli military under the spurious justification of lack of building permit. Given that such demolitions are neither carried out in the name of strict military necessity or for the benefit of the occupied population, they constitute a clear violation of international humanitarian law. In this regard, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination last year harshly criticised Israel’s “discriminatory planning policy” which rarely, if ever, grants construction permits to Palestinian communities.
There is no such restriction placed upon Israeli settlement construction across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. At least 6,676 new settlement housing units in the West Bank were approved for construction in 2012 by the Israeli authorities, who have already granted approval to hundreds more units this year.
This short video produced by Al-Haq’s Monitoring and Documentation Department gives voice to Muhammad Usamah Taha, whose workshop and house were demolished by the Israeli authorities without prior warning, destroying his only source of livelihood and many of his possessions. Unfortunately, Muhammad’s experience is one shared by thousands of Palestinian families across the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
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Human rights groups in Israel released a statement on Wednesday condemning the “outrageous mistreatment” of hunger striking Palestinian prisoners by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), including physical beatings.
“We are outraged by the mistreatment and violent attacks on Palestinian prisoners in general, and especially in the cases of these fragile hunger strikers,” said a joint press release from Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-IL).
“We urge the international community to intervene with Israel on behalf of these detainees before their conditions deteriorate even further.”
Doctors and lawyers from the groups who visited the prisoners in Ramleh prison medical center expressed particular concern for the lives two administrative detainees, Samer al-Barq and Hassan Safadi, who have been subject to consistent mistreatment by the IPS.
“There is reason to believe that in the future the health of the two strikers will deteriorate, and therefore their condition requires special attention and close monitoring,” said a doctor from PHR-IL following his visit to the prisoners.
The two detainees are now refusing vitamins and minerals in protest at “humiliating and violent treatment by IPS staff.” He called for the patients to be examined once a week by an impartial doctor without the need for a court order.
PHR-IL doctors also reported that the tiny 1.5 by 1.8 meter cell shared by the two prisoners has no space for the wheelchairs they require for every day activities such as going to the toilet and the shower.
According to the groups, Barq, who is currently on his 78th day of a renewed hunger strike, having already completed a 30-day hunger strike, was violently beaten during his transfer from Ramleh to Ofer military court on July 31.
IPS special forces are renowned for their particularly brutal treatment of prisoners during transfers.
Safadi, who is now on his 48th day of renewed hunger strike, following his previous 71-day hunger strike, recounted similar stories of abuse by IPS staff who regularly carry out violent searches of their cell.
In one such raid they insulted and beat him all over his body leaving him with an injured leg.
In June, Israel broke a deal reached with the Palestinian prisoners’ committee that ended a mass hunger strike by renewing the detention of Hassan Safadi for another six months.
Safadi has been held since 29 June 2011 and the renewal of his detention was a violation of the agreement between the prisoners’ hunger strike committee and Israeli officials.
The mass hunger strike of over 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails earlier this year was a protest against Israel’s draconian administrative detention policy, as well as harsh conditions imposed on them during imprisonment.
The strike aimed to put pressure on Israel to drop administrative detention, but the Jewish state has resisted calls to change the policy.
The law dates back to the British mandate era of historic Palestine and allows Israel to detain Palestinians without charge for renewable six month periods.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have previously condemned the policy as a violation of international humanitarian law.
Two other Palestinian political prisoners are also currently on hunger strike: Ayman Sharawna and Samer Al-Issawi, on 38 and 7 days respectively. Both were released in last October’s prisoner exchange deal and subsequently rearrested.
Israel has been accused by activists of implementing apartheid policies towards indigenous Palestinians.
- #PalHunger | Doctor and lawyer visits to hunger strikers reveal mistreatment by Israeli Prison Service (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- #PalHunger | Hunger strikers Samer al-Barq and Hassan Safadi severely assaulted by Israeli prison authorities (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Outrage as Israel breaks prisoner agreement (altahrir.wordpress.com)