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Special Focus: Sharp High Rate of Property Demolitions since the Second Half of 2020
22، Oct 2020

During the second half of 2020, Al-Haq noted a significant high rate of property demolitions by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT). While the monthly average of demolished Palestinian homes and properties by the Israeli authorities was 31 during the first six months of the year, the past three months – July, August and September, witnessed an average of 59 demolitions each. In total, 186 Palestinian properties were demolished in the OPT during the first half of the year and another 177 properties during the period July, August, and September. Worth noting is that during the past three months, 62 out of the 177 demolitions happened in the occupied governorate of Jerusalem.

In 2018 and 2019, the monthly averages of demolished Palestinian properties were about 22 and 30 respectively. The accelerating rate of demolitions witnessed by Al-Haq this year comes in light of Israel’s continued disregard of its obligations under international law, and its continuing plans to expand colonization through de jure annexation of more Palestinian land, all perpetrated against the backdrop of the continued failure of the international community to hold Israel accountable for its crimes, including the war crime of extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity.  

Demolition of a structure, and the uprooting of trees in Huwwara, Nablus

On 29 September 2020, in Huwwara, south of Nablus, the IOF accompanied by the Israeli Civil Administration demolished a structure, and uprooted four trees in the private land of Jamal Khader Khader. In his testimony to Al-Haq, Jamal noted that on 25 September 2020, he and his son found a demolition order in the barracks that was issued on 22 September 2020. The demolition order required Jamal “to remove the new structure under the pretext of lacking a building permit. The order stipulated that we have the right to appeal within 96 hours…in the end, we were not able to collect all the documents necessary to obtain a permit … due to the limited time available to us.” Describing the demolition operation, Jamal stated that: “On 29 September 2020, the IOF, accompanied by two patrols from the Israeli Civil Administration, and equipped with a large yellow bulldozer from the brand Volvo, raided the town of Huwwara, south of Nablus… where I own one dunam of land... that has a structure made of steel and tin, with an area of ​​120 square meters, which I built in July 2020 aiming to open a car wash, as well as an exhibition for natural stones, which is our basic profession. The Israeli bulldozer razed the land on which the structure was located and uprooted four trees.” (Al-Haq, Affidavit No. 218/2020A)

Destruction of water reservoirs in al-Jiftlek village, Jericho

On 5 August 2020, the IOF destroyed two water reservoirs belonging to Munir Saleh Shehadeh, from al-Jiftlek village in Jericho. In his statement to Al-Haq he said: “My family and I have been working in farming for 11 years. I have been specifically planting palm and grape trees, in a 120 dunum of land. I dug a water reservoir seven years ago, and rented another one that has existed for nearly 14 years, and I get water from a well that belongs to Burhan Al-Daman, … and I connect the water to the two water reservoirs and irrigate my plants from this water … However, on 10 May 2020, I got an order to stop constructing and working in the two reservoirs from the so-called Israeli Civil Administration … I went to a lawyer, who told me that the next session will be on 10 August 2020. However, on 6 August 2020…I was surprised with the IOF in my land...Then, three bulldozers arrived… all of which are from the brand Caterpillar… which completely destroyed the water reservoirs, emptied the water from them and made holes in their edges so that I would not be able to rehabilitate them… They also destroyed water pipes, pumps and stopcocks, which were close to the reservoirs. Not to mention the destruction of many of the grape trees as a result of water flood… an officer accompanying the IOF told me word for word that it is forbidden to plant grapes without a prior permit, which means that the violations that I have been subjected to have economic motives and because my products are of a high quality that competes with the products of the settlements.” (Al-Haq, Affidavit No. 176/2020A)

Destruction of an electricity network, a water tank and demolition of a concrete foundation of a building in Dura, Hebron

On 23 September 2020, the IOF accompanied by Israeli Border Guards and officers from the Israeli Civil Administration, and equipped with two bulldozers from the brands Caterpillar and Volvo, and two excavators from the brands Hyundai and Hidromek, arrived in Dura, south west of Hebron. An excavator destroyed a large water tank, and demolished a concrete foundation of about 35 square meters of a building under construction. The two bulldozers razed two lands that were being prepared for the construction of sheds for raising cows.The bulldozers and excavators also destroyed an electricity network of about 1,300 meters long that supplied electricity to four homes. Mahdi Yaser Al-Hroub, head of the electricity department at the municipality of Deir Samet, told Al-Haq that most of the electricity network had been established for about five years and that eight new pylons had been added a month prior to the demolition. He estimated that the losses arising from the demolition were about 34,500 NIS, in addition to leaving the area's homes without electricity, causing major damage.

Legal Analysis 

Israel uses many pretexts to justify its demolition policy, including the pretext of building having been constructed without a building permit. However, as the Occupying Power, Israel is prohibited from demolishing the property of the protected Palestinian people unless strictly justified by military necessity. The extensive destruction of property carried out by Israel without military necessity constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and may constitute a war crime. [1] 

Moreover, this policy of unlawfully demolishing Palestinian buildings and structures, taken alongside many other similarly unlawful policies and actions, reveal Israel’s intention to forcibly transfer Palestinian communities from their homes. Settlement construction and expansion, exploitation of natural resources, restricting movement and access, the application of a discriminatory planning policy, and the virtual impossibility of obtaining building permits create a coercive environment for Palestinians, which amounts to direct and indirect forcible transfer, prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention and which may constitute a war crime and a crime against humanity. [2] Moreover, having their properties demolished and destroyed, the Palestinian people are deprived of their right to develop their resources, and are ultimately denied from exercising their right to self-determination.  

The above cases further illustrate the involvement and complicity of business enterprises in Israel’s unlawful demolition policy. Whereas businesses are required to respect international humanitarian law standards,[3] and to conduct an enhanced human rights due diligence process to avoid causing or contributing to gross human rights violations through their own activities in conflict-affected areas,[4] corporations such as Volvo, Caterpillar, Hyundai, and Hidromek  have been selling their equipment in the knowledge that they would be used to unlawfully demolish Palestinian property, and may therefore be complicit in war crimes directly perpetrated by Israeli forces. 

To watch Al-Haq’s short video on the Sharp High Rate of House Demolitions during 2020, click here.


[1] Article 53 and 147, Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949; The Rome Statute Elements of Crimes, Article 8 (2)(a)(iv).

[2] Article 49 and 147, IV Geneva Convention; The Rome Statute Elements of Crimes, Articles 7(1)(d) and 8(2)(a)(vii). 

[3] OHCHR, “Guiding principles on business and Human rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework,” 2011, commentary to principle 12.

[4] Guidelines, principle 15; OHCHR, ‘Statement on the implications of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the context of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’ (6 June 2014) 10.