This morning, our team were preparing to go out to visit a community center in Silwan when we received word of another home demolition in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina. Our plans changed quickly, and soon we were in a taxi enroute to the latest demolition. When we arrived the demolition was complete. The scene was another mass of rubble, with a few extended family members surveying the wreckage. Apart from a television news crew, we were the first group to arrive. After receiving details of the demolition, our team has contacted the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and UN OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) on the family’s behalf.
Today’s demolition destroyed the home of Rahed Abu Safa, a 33 year old Palestinian construction worker, his wife and 3 young children, ages 5 to 10 years old. Up until a few months ago, they were an average young family, supporting themselves and living a typical life. Their house was a single storey family home, built without a building permit 12 or 13 years ago. (see previous post, “House Demolition” for information regarding why Palestinians living in East Jerusalem build homes without a building permit) They obviously had cared for their yard, with landscaping around the house and various trees planted. For several years, the family have been paying a monthly fine for building without a permit. Early last fall, the family found themselves unable to pay the fine. Rahed was then arrested by the Israeli authorities and given a 9 month jail sentence. He has currently served 4 months of this sentence and remains in jail, with another 5 months still to serve. While Rahed has been in prison, his wife and children have continued to live in their family home. Yesterday, they went to have dinner and spend the evening with other family members, and ended up staying overnight. This morning, the children went to school. Around 9am, without prior warning, 5 carloads of Israeli police officers and 12-15 Israeli soldiers, as well as a bulldozer, arrived in front of the family home. They broke through the closed gate to the house, destroying the gate and the cement drive way, before demolishing the family home. According to relatives at the scene, Rahed’s wife is understandably “ in shock. ”
Rahed’s cousin, Nasser Abu Saba, spoke to us of the difficulties the family face, and of the frustration Palestinians in general feel with the current system that makes it virtually impossible to obtain building permits on land that they own. “This is a very difficult situation for our family right now but we have to be patient. What else can we do? This is our land.” He also spoke of the desire of Palestinians to find peace with Israel, and of the frustration they feel with the ongoing conflict. “We want to live with the 1967 borders. We want to live In peace with Israel. We need internationals to help us.”
Today, in an act of intentional, premeditated, state sanctioned violence, the lives of one young Palestinian family were irrevocably changed. According to International Humanitarian Law, “Destructions by the Occupying Power are forbidden unless absolutely necessary for military operations.” (Art 53, Geneva Convention IV, also Article 23(g) of Hague Regulations) Furthermore, “Extensive destruction and appropriation of property…not justified by military necessity, and carried out unlawfully, and wantonly is a war crime (Article 147, Geneva Convention IV)
When will the world notice?
When will the world act?
Peace, Salaam, Shalom,