Joint Statement : AIDA Calls for the Immediate Halt of Demolitions and Forcible Transfer of the Humsa Al Bqai’a Community
Jersualem, 10 February 2021 – The Association of International Development Agencies in Palestine (AIDA), representing over 80 INGOs working in Palestine and Israel, calls on Israel to immediately halt the illegal and forcible transfer of the community of Humsa Al Bqai’a in the Jordan Valley. AIDA also urges the international community to resort to appropriate measures to bring Israel into compliance with its legal obligations as an occupying power and to prevent further violations, as we have seen occurring with disturbing pace.
The Community of Humsa Al Bqai’a has sustained repeated destruction of property – provided in part as humanitarian relief – confiscation of community assets, and appropriation of productive land. The Israeli military forcefully entered the community twice last week on February 1st and 3rd. According to OCHA preliminary assessments, the raids on February 1st and 3rd resulted in the confiscation of about 44 structures (homes and livestock), resulting in the displacement of at least 55 people, including 32 children. This comes on the heels of another mass demolition that took place in the same community on November 3, 2020. That incident was reported as the largest mass demolition incident since OCHA established the demolition database in 2009.
Israel, the occupying power, is bound by international humanitarian law to ensure the safety of Palestinians and by human rights law to respect, protect and fulfil their human rights – including their right to an adequate standard of living and to housing. In addition, the extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity in Humsa Al Bqai’a, as well as the forcible transfer of the community, constitute violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 for which the State of Israel incurs international responsibility. Such unlawful destruction and transfer also constitute grave breached of the same Convention incurring individual criminal responsibility. All States parties to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 have the obligation to search for, prosecute or extradite the authors of such war crimes. The forcible transfer of the Community of Humsa Al Bqai’a also occurs against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, and consequently puts an already vulnerable community further in harm’s way.
With the increase of demolitions across the West Bank of homes, livelihood structures, and structures tied to water and food security, the need for humanitarian support becomes ever more urgent. Despite apparent obstacles including seizure and destruction of donor-funded structures, harassment by Israeli authorities, and defamation campaigns targeted at humanitarian actors, AIDA members are committed to their responsibility to deliver humanitarian relief in line with humanitarian principles.
Accordingly, AIDA members call on the diplomatic and donor community to:
- Take effective measures, including but not limited to public statements and private demarches, to induce Israel to immediately halt the forcible transfer of the community of Humsa Al Bqai’a;
- Call on Israel to cease forthwith its policy of destruction of property – including humanitarian relief – and forcible transfer of Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, especially at a time of a pandemic, and to address Israel’s internationally wrongful acts as a priority in the upcoming UNSC Monthly Debate, the HRC 46th Session and in intergovernmental fora including the MaMa and COHAFA EU Council working parties.
- Continue efforts in demanding reparations from the Government of Israel in the form of restitution, monetary compensation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition for any donor-funded assistance destroyed or otherwise adversely affected;
- Donors should reaffirm the right of Palestinians to receive relief and that of donor-states and impartial humanitarian organizations to offer aid, and hold the state of Israel accountable on behalf of humanitarian actors when they are denied timely and effective access to Palestinians in need.