Saturday, June 06, 2020

Israel prevents European diplomats from delivering humanitarian aid in Jordan Valley

By Leona Vicario and Lien S. - September 22, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]

 Most of the structures of the village have been completely destroyed. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.


On Friday, 20 September, Israeli soldiers attacked a convoy of European diplomats attempting to provide tents and emergency materials to a Palestinian village in Jordan Valley and confiscated their truck. The diplomats were on their way to the village of Khirbet Makhoul, which was completely destroyed by the Israeli army earlier this week., rendering the approximately 100 inhabitants homeless.

The convoy was made up of diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union’s political office. Upon arrival, they were awaited by about a dozen Israeli army jeeps and were ordered not to unload the truck with emergency supplies. French diplomat Marion Castaing told Reuters that she was dragged out of the truck and forced on the ground by the soldiers with no regard for her diplomatic impunity. "This is how international law is being respected here," she said.

Brussels has already demanded an explanation from Israel. “The EU underlines the importance of unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance and the applicability of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory," a spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said in a press release on Saturday.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)argues that the attempt to put up the tents was a provocation, as the Israeli Supreme court deems any structure built in Area C (the 60-plus percent of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and military control via the Oslo Accords) to be illegal and subject to demolition. 

“The IDF contained the violence with riot dispersal means, seized the tents and detained three Palestinians who instigated the activity,” said an IDF spokeswoman in an interview with The Financial Times shortly after the incident.“Reports that foreign diplomats abused their diplomatic privileges are being reviewed,” added the spokeswoman,“and if required, complaints will be filed with the relevant authorities,”

It is not the first time the Israeli army has blocked aid from reaching Palestinians in the area. Earlier this week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross attempted to deliver emergency aid in the form of temporary shelters to the inhabitants of the destroyed village, yet was forced to take the tents down each time. 

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti visits the Makhoul village after the demolition. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.


Demolished without warning

Haaretz reports that after a legal process of four years, Israel denied the Palestinians ownership rights to the land last month because their ownership documents were issued by the Palestinian Authority and not by the Israeli Civil Administration (the governing body of Israel’s occupation in the West Bank). 

Residents told Palestine Monitor that they had not received a demolition order or a warning before the military came to the village at 4:30 AM on Monday morning and proceeded to demolish every structure in the area. "We have been living on this land since 1967 and we never caused any problems," Mahmoud, one of the remaining inhabitants, explains. “What can I do now? I do not have a house anymore and everything we rebuild, will be destroyed again by Israeli soldiers.”

They have destroyed shelters before, but never like this. Now the whole village is destroyed

Only five men have remained in the village to take care of the cattle. The other inhabitants are being hosted by relatives in Tamoun and Tubas, where on Sunday, 22 September, a meeting will take place between the mayor of the city and a General in the IDF to discuss the future of the villagers. 

A social worker that often visits the village stated that it is not unusual to see soldiers in Khirbet Makhoul, as the village is situated within an Israeli military training zone in Area C.“They have destroyed shelters before, but never like this. Now the whole village is destroyed,” he said. Makhoul is the third village in the West Bank and Jerusalem to be demolished by the Israeli army since August. 

Palestinian communities in firing zones regularly face demolitions by the Israeli authorities, unlike the Israeli settlements and outposts nearby. Approximately 18% of the West Bank has been designated as a closed, live-fire military training zone, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

“Israel told them to move, but how should they do that if their grain is growing here?" asked the social worker. 

Deteriorating relationships between the EU and Israel

This latest incident might deteriorate the already strained relationships between the European Union (EU) and Israel even further. This summer, the EU implemented new guidelines designed to pressure Israel’s settlement expansion policies, as settlements contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention's ban on an occupying power moving its nationals into occupied territory.

On 8 July, EU Vice President Catherine Ashton declared that the EU was working on guidelines to label settlement products starting at the end of this year. Exactly one week later, the EU adopted new guidelines that instruct its 28 member states to no longer award any funding, grants or scholarships to entities in Jewish settlements in the occupied Golan Heights, West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

One of the diplomats that took part in Friday’s attempted aid convoy testified, "(Our presence here) is a clear matter of international humanitarian law. By the Geneva Convention, an occupying power needs to see to the needs of people under occupation. These people aren't being protected."

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