On October 24th we visited a site where two structures had been demolished the previous day just outside of the city of Qalqiliya. When we reached the neighbourhood we saw two shed-like structures in rubble. We spoke with Hanni who operates the Al-Hasamis’ well just across the street about what happened. He told us that six Israeli military jeeps and one bulldozer with approximately 30 soldiers showed up at 8:30 am on October 23rd and demolished the buildings.
We asked to meet with the owner of one of the buildings. Mahmoud Sasa came to the site with his two young sons. Mahmoud has planted olive and citrus trees on his plot of land. The building was a place where the family would come for picnics in their garden outside of the city. It was also a place used to store all their gardening tools when they come to work the land.
Mahmoud’s son climbs through the rubble and recovers two glass teacups. We asked him how he explained such a situation to his young sons. Mahmoud replied, “I told my sons, what can we do? Israel is strong and Palestine is weak.”
When we asked whether he would rebuild the shed, he answered: “I will rebuild it two, three, four times if I have to.”
Building in the occupied Palestinian territory is complicated to say the least. After the Oslo accords, the territory were divided into Area A, B and C. This was supposed to be a temporary arrangement. Israel controls civil and security responsibilities in Area C. It is very difficult to obtain building permits in Area C (which consists of over 60% of the West Bank). People build and expand their homes out of necessity (natural growth) without permits. Then they are usually issued a warning or “stop work order” from Israel at which point they would apply for the permit though they are rarely granted. After this point, if someone is issued a demolition order it is a long legal process to contest this decision and people often don’t win their case.
Mahmoud said he never saw a demolition order for his building. According to Hanni, the owner of the second building that was destroyed had received a demolition order some months previous. There is a third structure on the street that they believe is under threat of demolition. The owner of the building is currently in Canada.
For more information please see UN OCHA fact sheet on Area C: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_Area_C_Fact_Sheet_July_2011.pdf
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