Two Accused, 25 punished: A photo essay on home demolitions

Sep 02, 2016
Palestinian children stand near the remainder of a doorway on the third floor of a demolished structure in Al-Hila Ash-Sharqiya, Yatta in the West Bank. (Photo: DCIP / Cody O'Rourke)

Ramallah, September 2, 2016—The Israeli military carried out punitive home demolitions in the southern West Bank city of Yatta on August 4th, impacting 25 people residing in two separate structures, including 14 children.

The punitive demolitions took place two months after two members of the Makhamra family, Khaled and his cousin, Mohammad, allegedly committed a double-shooting attack in Tel Aviv. At the time of the attack, June 8th, one of the accused perpetrators was arrested and the other was moderately wounded. Within three weeks, the Israeli army issued demolition orders for the two accused attackers’ families' homes.

Mohammad Musa Eid Makhamra, father of accused attacker Khaled, sits with his two children and two nieces, in his home in Yatta before it was demolished. (Photo: DCIP / Cody O'Rourke)
Defense for Children International - Palestine spoke to Mohammad Musa Eid Makhamra in late June, in his home near Hebron, in the Khalet Mizher neighborhood of Yatta, after the demolition order had been issued. At the time, Mohammad Musa Eid told DCIP that his five younger children were anxious and having difficulty sleeping, knowing they could lose their home any day.

Mohammad Musa Eid's niece, 5, and son, 7, sit together inside the second-floor apartment in June, 2016,  after Israel had issued the demolition order. (Photo: DCIP / Cody O'Rourke) Mohammad Musa Eid first heard that his son, Khaled, and nephew, Mohammad, had committed a fatal attack in Israel on the news, while breaking fast during Ramadan. Later that night, on June 8th, Israeli soldiers raided his apartment and his brother’s, in the Al-Hila Ash-Sharqiya neighborhood of Yatta.

Makhamra and his family lived on the upper floor of this two-story apartment building until it was demolished on August 4, 2016. (Photo: DCIP / Cody O'Rourke)Between June 9 and June 10, the Israeli army searched the two buildings, arresting Mohammad Musa Eid's brother, Ahmad, father of the second alleged attacker. Another family member, Ibrahim, who lived in the apartment below Mohammad Musa Eid, was also arrested. Ahmad was detained for 61 days without any charges, while Ibrahim was sentenced to six months in administrative detention.

Ahmad Makhamra, father of alleged attacker Mohammad, lived on the first floor of this three-story apartment building with his wife and three children. (Photo: DCIP / Cody O'Rourke)By June 29, the Israeli army issued demolition orders for each of the alleged attackers’ houses. The Makhamra family tried to appeal the orders but did not receive a written decision from the court, nor were they given written descriptions of the demolition process. Together, the two structures contained five apartments, which were home to 25 people.

An excavator clears the rubble from Mohammad Musa Eid's apartment after Israeli forces demolished it. (Photo: DCIP / Cody O'Rourke)
Without warning, Israeli soldiers stormed the village just after midnight on August 4th and demolished Mohammad Musa Eid's apartment with bulldozers, also causing damage to Ibrahim’s apartment, below. The family had only minutes to remove their belongings from the home.

Two children walk over the rubble of Mohammad Musa Eid's apartment. (Photo: DCIP / Cody O'Rourke)A neighbor, who offered the family shelter that night, told DCIP that all the children were present during the demolition and were visibly distraught and unable to sleep until early morning. 

All three floors of Ahmad Makhamra's apartment building sustained damage from the Israeli forces' use of explosives during the demolition. (Photo: DCIP / Cody O'Rourke)While Israeli forces were still demolishing Mohammad Musa Eid's house, around 3:30 a.m., another group of Israeli forces set off explosives on the top floor of Ahmad’s house. The explosion caused damage to the first floor and rendered the second and third floors uninhabitable, according to Israeli rights group HaMoked, and local inspectors. The Yatta municipality later removed the rubble from the second and third floors

The demolition left nine people without safe shelter, three of whom were children. The force of the explosion also damaged surrounding buildings in a kilometer (0.6 mile) radius, as flying shrapnel struck doors and windows.

A boy sits on a cinder block following Israel's punitive demolition of alleged attacker Mohammad Makhamra's family's home. (Photo: DCIP / Cody O'Rourke)Punitive demolitions are an act of collective punishment against the families of suspects or perpetrators of crimes against Israelis. Though Israeli authorities maintain that punitive demolitions are a means of achieving security, Israel does not demolish the homes of Israelis who have committed crimes against Palestinians as part of its policy.

Officially, Israeli authorities claim that punitive demolitions serve as an act of deterrence intended to stymie attacks by potential perpetrators. Israel believes that a potential perpetrator will be less likely to perpetrate a crime if they know their family will suffer as a consequence.

A boy looks through the rubble of Ahmad Makhamra's apartment building after Israeli forces carried out a demolition on August 4, 2016. (Photo: DCIP / Cody O'Rourke)In all of the recent testimonies about punitive demolitions that DCIP collected, the accused assailant had already been killed or detained before the demolition. It is, therefore, the families of suspected perpetrators who suffer the most from a home demolition. Israeli authorities do not spare a family based on financial situation, the number of dependent children or elderly relatives, or the ability of the family to find a new place to live.

According to OCHA’s West Bank demolitions database, Israel has demolished 24 structures in punitive actions since the start of 2016, displacing 128 people, including 48 children.

Children examine the remains of an apartment in Ahmad Makhamra's apartment building. (Photo: DCIP / Cody O'Rourke)Punitive home demolitions are part of Israel’s broader practices toward Palestinian-owned properties, which include dismantlement, eviction, and property confiscation for reasons such as zoning and permit requirements.

OCHA reports that so far this year, 648 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and 121 in East Jerusalem have been demolished, dismantled or otherwise confiscated by Israel, displacing 1094 Palestinians. This represents a significant increase in the weekly rate of demolitions, which has more than doubled from 11 in 2015, to 24 per week in 2016.

Since 1967, Israel has pursued a policy of demolishing homes and essential structures — including water systems, livestock pens, solar panels, and even tents and shelters provided by international NGOs — throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, demolishing an estimated 48,000 Palestinian structures. Of these, 24,000 are estimated to be homes.

Under international humanitarian law, Israel has obligations toward Palestinian civilians. Its demolitions are in violation of The Hague and Fourth Geneva Conventions, which state that an occupying power cannot destroy or seize property on the territory it occupies.


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