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De Facto Annexation Continues with House Demolitions using Hyundai bulldozers, Destruction of Palestinian Lands, Infrastructure and Pillage
16، Jul 2020

Reporting Period: 29 June – 5 July 2020


Date: 14 July 2020


In the week of Israel’s planned illegal de jure annexation of the large swathes of the Jordan Valley, Al-Haq documented and monitored a number of incidents pertaining to land and natural resource appropriation to advance colonization in continuance of Israel’s de facto annexation.[1] Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) razed Palestinian agricultural lands in Beit Iksa; closed off main roads in Nablus for the use of settlements; meanwhile settlers appropriated and pillaged key water infrastructures from the Palestinian village of Madama; and settlers attempted to forcibly evict Palestinian farmers from their land in Salfit. In addition, the Jerusalem Municipality carried out two house demolitions in Al-Issawiya and Jabal Al-Mukabber, northeast of Jerusalem.


1. Israel Antiquities Authority and IOF Raze Land in Beit Iksa


Between 28 to 30 June, a large contingent of the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) along with two bulldozers, stormed the village of Beit Iksa, northwest of occupied Jerusalem, accompanied by employees from the Israel Antiquities Authority, and began razing village lands. Eyewitness Muhammad Khalil Sader Saleh, 40, explained how the IOF closed the entrances to the village, erected a tent and proceeded to sweep the lands. Meanwhile, IOF soldiers took position on the roofs of the surrounding houses, while deployments of ground forces took control of the village. The IOF then proceeded to raze the plot of land (approximately 2 dunums) belonging to Saleh’s family and located near the old town, using the two bulldozers. According to Saleh, an IOF officer explained that the army was razing the land to search for remnants of two-thousand-year-old artifacts, which the IOF officer alleged, belonged to the State of Israel. 


2. Appropriation of Ain al-Sha`ara Well and Pillage of Water Resources


On 2 July, a gang of settlers from the Yitzhar settlement seized and appropriated the spring of the Ain al-Sha`ara water well in the village of Madama, south of Nablus. Installing a water pump on the well they proceeded to pillage the water resources. The well has supplied Palestinian villagers from Madama for hundreds of years.


3. Armed Settlers Attempt to Forcibly Transfer Palestinians from Land


On 5 July, Muhannad Sadiq Abu Alia and Daoud Abdel Rahman Hassan, both in their fifties, from the Khalat Hassan area of Bidya municipality, Salfit, were affronted by settlers and wounded in a live fire settler attack. According to eyewitness Youssef Ahmed Saleh Abu Safieh, 60, a settler armed with a M16 rifle approached farmers working in Khalat Hassan in the morning hours and tried to expel them from the land, claiming that he had bought it. When the farmers refused to leave the land, another six, armed settlers, arrived on the scene accompanied with dogs, whereupon they tried to forcibly evict the farmers. Villagers from Bidya mobilized rapidly and arrived to help the farmers. The settlers fired live bullets at the citizens, wounding Muhannad Sadiq Abu Alia and Daoud Abdel Rahman Hassan, who were taken to hospital for treatment. 


4. House Demolitions in Al-Issawiya and Jabal Al-Mukabber


On July 1, Israeli bulldozers demolished the house of Attia Ismail Mahmoud Mutair, 58 in Al-Issawiya, northeast of Jerusalem. In June, Mutair had started a 60 square meters construction on a second house "adjacent to his house" for his son's family, at a cost of NIS 70,000 (approx. USD 20,000). Previously, in 2010, the Jerusalem Municipality carried out a similar demolition, on a house constructed by Mutair, covering an area of 130 square meters. Following the 2010 demolition, Mutair applied for a permit but without success. Prior to the demolition on 1 July, Mutair received a demolition order from the Jerusalem Municipality, signed by Moshe Lyon, outlining that the building was an unlicensed construction. During the demolition, Mutair identified Hyundai bulldozers used by the Jerusalem Municipality, which demolished the new house and also caused significant damage to the main house, leaving extensive cracks in the walls and roof of the house. 


The same day, the Jerusalem Municipality also demolished the home of the Yassin Taha Muhammad Za'atra, 47 in Jabal Al-Mukabber, and his family, Mervat Za’atra, 40, Taha Za’atra, 20, Muhammad Za’atara, 18, and Ghina Za’atara, 3, in occupied East Jerusalem. The family of five, built the house nearly ten years ago without a permit and since then, their attempts to retroactively license the house through the competent authorities, including lawyers and engineers, has failed. Their case was argued up to the Supreme Court, who ruled against freezing the demolition order. The Court levied an additional fine on the family for "construction without a license". Although the family had committed to pay the fine, their home was nonetheless demolished. Again, the family identified that Hyundai equipment was used to carry out the demolition. The estimated cost of the 85 square meters, two-bedroom house cost ILS 250,000 (approximately USD 73,000), with additional costs from the Municipality for the demolition of the home accruing to approximately ILS 80,000 (approximately USD 23,000), along with legal fees amounting to ILS 34,000, (approximately USD 10,000) which the family will also be expected to pay.  Following the demolition, the family of five, were left homeless.




The actions of the IOF during belligerent occupation are governed by the application of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Critically, the use of privately owned real property is protected against interference, except under the most exceptional circumstances pertaining to requisition for military need and military operations. Certainly, the type of booty hunting by the Israel Antiquities Authority, witnessed in Beit Iksa, alongside the destruction of property, which is prohibited under Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, represents a clear violation of international law. Further, the appropriation and pillage of water from the Ain al-Sha`ara water well, violates Article 55 governing natural resources, and amounts to the war crime of pillage, prosecutable at the International Criminal Court under Article 8(2)(b)(xvi) of the Rome Statute. 


Besides the manifest illegality of the presence of settlers in occupied territory, which breaches Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the use of armed force in the settler attack against Muhannad Sadiq Abu Alia and Daoud Abdel Rahman Hassan, amounts to a further breach of Article 43 of the Hague Regulations, as Israel must ensure that the local population are not mistreated by the authorities of the Occupying Power, or private actors.[2] In this respect, it must be recalled that Israeli parliamentarian, Amir Ohana, MK, previously advised that “a civilian who carries a gun is more of a solution than a threat, and serves as a force multiplier for the security forces”, indicating Israel’s policy of institutionalizing settler violence as part of the artillery of the colonisation.[3]

Finally the house demolitions of protected persons in occupied East Jerusalem, amount to an unlawful destruction of property, carried out in violation of Articles 46 and 53 of the Hague Regulations, governing the protection of private property. The  “arbitrary or unlawful interference with [...] privacy, family [or] home” further violates Article 17 of the ICCPR. This includes protection against the unlawful interference, of the annexation regime of the Occupying Power in Jerusalem, which is itself strictly prohibited from eroding the protections guaranteed to the protected population under Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In light of the abovementioned acts contributing to the continuing de facto annexation of the OPT, Al-Haq calls on the international community, and in particular the EU, to apply trade and economic restrictive measures on Israel, to ensure compliance and adherence to basic norms of international law.




[1] Due to continuing restrictions on movement resulting from the Covid-19 lockdown, Al-Haq field researchers collected testimonies by phone.

[2] JS Pictet, Commentary: Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (ICRC, Geneva, 1958), 274-283; Y Arai-Takahashi, The Law of Occupation: Continuity and Change of International Humanitarian Law, and its Interaction with International Human Rights Law (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden/Boston, 2009), 169. See also Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

[3] Josh Briener, “Thousands of Guns Could Flood Streets as Israel Seeks to Ease Restrictions” Haaretz (9 July 2018), available at: obtaining-a-firearm-license-1.6247213