JERUSALEM – Israel demolished the tent dwellings of at least 63 Bedouin in a village in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, a Palestinian official said, in an area designated by the Israeli military as a firing zone.
Palestinians and rights groups accuse Israel of trying to forcibly clear out the Bedouin – who witnesses said remained at the site after the demolitions – to make room for Jewish settlement expansion.
Muataz Bsharat, an official in the Palestinian Authority that administers limited self-rule in the West Bank, said it was the seventh time Israeli authorities had destroyed tent dwellings as well as animal shelters, latrines, solar panels and water containers in the village of Khirbet Humsah.
“Now 63 Palestinians became homeless. Eleven families had their homes demolished and confiscated,” he said, accusing Israel of “state-sponsored terrorism” against the residents.
COGAT, an Israeli military liaison agency with the Palestinians, said Israel acted in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling in demolishing tents that again had been illegally erected by Palestinians who “invaded the firing range” in 2012.
Israel has often cited a lack of building permits, which Palestinians and rights groups say are nearly impossible to obtain, in destroying Palestinian structures in the West Bank, an area it captured in a 1967 war.
Israel has said that the Bedouin in Khirbet Humsah, in the Jordan Valley, had rejected offers to move them out of the firing zone to an alternative location.
At the site, mechanical excavators tore into the tents and then lifted the remnants into dump trucks to be carted away as residents looked on.