Palestine: New year, new Israeli violence

Issue 
South Hebron Hills, largest demolition order in more than a decade was carried out on February 3.

While Israel's supporters in Australia have worked themselves up over stationary shop Typo selling a world globe naming the area inhabited by the state of Israel as “Palestine”, this year has already involved new injustices for those living in occupied Palestine.

The “new normal” of extrajudicial killings, set during the escalation of violence in Occupied Palestine last October, remains firmly in place. Israeli occupying forces have also accelerated their policy of housing demolitions.

While Israel's supporters in Australia have worked themselves up over stationary shop Typo selling a world globe naming the area inhabited by the state of Israel as “Palestine”, this year has already involved new injustices for those living in occupied Palestine.

The “new normal” of extrajudicial killings, set during the escalation of violence in Occupied Palestine last October, remains firmly in place. Israeli occupying forces have also accelerated their policy of housing demolitions.

The cycle of individual acts of violence by Palestinians, and extrajudicial killings by Israeli forces in response, has continued into February. In the latest United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) , it was confirmed that 22 Palestinians had died at the hands of Israeli forces between January 1 and February 2.

The reported death tolls tell a story of the disproportionate violence of the occupiers: the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces last year in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza was 152; Israeli fatalities from Palestinian attacks totalled 23. There were also 89 incidents of violence by Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem resulting in Palestinian casualties.

In the involving Israeli casualties, three Palestinian men were stopped by Israeli border police near the Damascus Gate, the gateway between East Jerusalem and the old city, on February 3. At least one of the men shot and fatally wounded a police officer; all three assailants were shot and killed at the scene.

The , Ahmad Rajeh Ismail Zakarneh, Muhammad Ahmad Hilmi Kamil, and Najeh Ibrahim Abu al-Rub, were aged between 20 and 21. They all came from the village of Qabatiya, near Jenin in the north of the West Bank.

Israeli forces locked down Qabatiya hours after the incident in an example of collective punishment. The village was immediately declared a closed military zone; all roads out were sealed by bulldozers within two days.

Protesting the lockdown, several Palestinian youth were hospitalised with injuries from rubber bullets or from being run over by military jeeps.

Rarely-granted work permits, allowing the village's residents to legally cross the border into Israel and work for higher wages than those paid in the West Bank, were reportedly revoked by Israeli forces. The families of the assailants in the February 3 attack were also given notice that their houses would be demolished.

Israel frequently uses demolition orders as a punitive measure. The Israeli military uses many legal justifications for the orders, including a lack of building permits, nebulous “security reasons” or the land being zoned as “green areas” by Israel.

Once made, demolition orders are almost never revoked, despite frequent legal appeals in Israeli courts. More 11,000 demolition orders are outstanding against Palestinian buildings.

According to the Protection of Civilians report, 121 buildings have been demolished so far this year — 15 in East Jerusalem, the rest in the West Bank. That puts the year's weekly average at 24 buildings demolished — almost two-and-a-half times higher than last year's weekly average of 10.

The largest demolition order in more than a decade was in the villages of Janba and al-Halawa in the South Hebron Hills on February 3.

Israel refers to the land of the villages, home to over 1200 residents, as “Firing Range 918”. The military four buildings, home to 20 people, and seized a number of solar panels, built to supply the village's electricity with European Union (EU) funding.

The EU on February 7 criticising house demolitions, including the February 3 South Hebron Hills orders and reiterating the EU's “firm opposition to Israel's settlement policy”.

“EU humanitarian activities are carried out in full accordance with international humanitarian law,” said the statement, in reference to the confiscation of solar panels, “with the sole aim of providing humanitarian support to most vulnerable people. We call on the Israeli authorities to reverse the decisions taken and to halt further demolitions.”

Despite international condemnation and ongoing violence, Israel has proceeded with settlement expansion and the destruction of Palestinian land and heritage. On February 3, bulldozers at Khirbet al-Najjar, in the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, for building a new access road for nearby settlements.

The hill is the site of Roman and Byzantine ruins, and monitors from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities were prevented from documenting the construction work.

The destruction shows Israel's free reign when it comes to the destroying Palestinian land and heritage — and the cynical way the occupation utilises history to justify its presence on stolen land. Nearby biblical sites, such as Rachel's Tomb or Herodian, are protected by Israeli walls and administered by Israeli officials.

Despite these attempts to rewrite their history and destroy their presence, Palestinian people refuse to have their identity erased. As well as bringing more Israeli injustice, 2016 will continue to bring Palestinian resistance so long as their homeland is occupied.

Like the article? to Green Left now! You can also us on Facebook and on Twitter.