B’Tselem: Humsah’s fourth demolition is a test case for the international community

B’Tselem: Humsah’s fourth demolition is a test case for the international community

On Monday, February 8, Israel demolished the Palestinian community of Khirbet Humsah for the fourth time, following twice last week and once in November 2020. These actions – carried out in the midst of a humanitarian crisis caused by the pandemic — are part of Israel’s efforts to forcibly transfer the community on spurious pretexts of “military training” and “law enforcement.”   On 8 February 2021, Israel again confiscated most of the residential structures and livestock enclosures in the community of Khirbet Humsah al-Foqa. Civil Administration personnel dismantled and confiscated nine tents that were home to 61 people, including 33 minors, as well as 12 other structures which included shade sails, storage shacks and a water container. They also demolished five livestock enclosures. In addition, the forces confiscated three vehicles that do not belong to the community (a tractor belonging to the local council, a Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation car, and a vehicle belonging to the Palestinian Authority’s Commission against the Wall and the Settlements).
Last week, too, on Monday (1 February 2021) and Wednesday (3 February), Israel confiscated most of the community’s residential structures and livestock enclosures, in two massive operations. 
On Monday, the forces:
– Dismantled and confiscated 13 tents that were home to 11 families, numbering 74 people including 41 minors; two of the families had temporarily relocated to the Furush Beit Dajan area after their homes were demolished last November.
– Dismantled and confiscated five shacks, one not yet built, and eight tents, all used for livestock.

On Wednesday, the forces returned and:
– Dismantled and confiscated seven tents that were home to nine families, numbering 61 people including 33 minors (the same families whose tents were demolished on Monday).
– Dismantled and confiscated five tents and two shacks that served as livestock enclosures, as well as three livestock pens.
– Confiscated four portable outhouses and demolished two others. Confiscated three disassembled tents and demolished two tents used for tabun ovens.
– Confiscated a vehicle belonging to a Palestinian human rights activist and another vehicle belonging to the Palestinian Authority’s Commission against the Wall and the Settlements.

That evening (Wednesday), military troops arrived at Khirbet Humsah, declared it a closed military zone and tried to prevent reconstruction of the demolished structures.

These demolitions are part of Israel’s policy, enacted throughout the West Bank, to make Palestinians’ lives unbearable, in order to force them to leave their homes, concentrate them in enclaves and take over their land. This policy constitutes an attempt at forcible transfer — which is defined as a war crime under international humanitarian law. The responsibility for its execution lies first and foremost with the political decision-makers leading it, the senior military command carrying it out, and the Supreme Court lending it a legal stamp of approval. 

So far, the international community has shirked its duty to obligate Israel to uphold the human rights of the Palestinians subjected to its control, making do with feeble remonstrations. This latest spate of demolitions is a test of the international community’s commitment to its own laws and to the values it professes to cherish. In particular, they are a test for the new administration in Washington, as the repeated demolitions of Khirbet Humsah have taken place during its first days in office. By remaining silent, the new US administration is upholding the green light the Trump administration gave Israel to continue its violent policy of dispossession.  
Last Friday, 5 February 2021, the International Criminal Court in the Hague (ICC) ruled that its jurisdiction applies to the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. In doing so, the justices enabled the tribunal’s prosecutor to launch an investigation, including against Israelis suspected of committing war crimes in these territories. Hopefully, the ICC’s ruling will restrain Israel and deter it from the continued implementation of this policy.