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U.N. says Israel’s “unlawful demolition” of Palestinian village leaves 41 kids homeless


Beds and other family belongings sit in the dirt in what had been the small Palestinian settlement of Khirbet Humsa in the West Bank, in a photo provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


United Nations — Israeli forces sent demolition vehicles this week to bulldoze a Palestinian village, leaving some 70 civilians, including 41 children, homeless, the United Nations said. It was part of the largest forced displacement carried out by the Israeli government in years, according to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  

The action in a small settlement in the Jordan Valley known as Khirbet Humsa was filmed by the U.N. agency as well as an Israeli human rights group. The images showed beds, cribs and other family belongings left on the dusty ground of the village. 

Israel’s military unit in the West Bank said the destroyed structures were “built illegally in a firing zone in the Jordan Valley.” 

The Bedouin and sheepherding village was one of several in the Palestinian territories built within designated Israeli army training areas, where building permits are rarely issued.  

“Humanitarian agencies visited the community and recorded 76 demolished structures, more than in any other single demolition in the past decade, said Yvonne Helle, the Humanitarian Coordinator at the U.N. agency, adding that the destroyed properties included homes, bathrooms and solar panel arrays that were essential to the community. 

The heightened tension in the Middle East comes as the Trump administration’s Israel-Palestinian peace plan, unveiled earlier this year, remains largely stalled and the parties divided over how to proceed.

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Israel and the U.S. have accused the U.N. of bias in favor of the Palestinians, and on Wednesday the Israeli ambassador to the world body, Gilad Erdan, accused its other members of adopting Middle East resolutions “that worsen conflict and increase religious tension.” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft made similar assertions to CBS News in a September interview.

The U.N. said Israel’s actions this week were intended to move vulnerable families out of their homes. Overall, the U.N. said almost 700 civilian buildings have been demolished in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 2020. 

“Their vulnerability is further compounded by the onset of winter and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Helle said of the Khirbet demolitions in particular, calling the actions “grave breaches” of international law.  

“The humanitarian community stands ready to support all those who have been displaced,” the U.N. Secretary-General’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Thursday. “They reiterate that they call on Israel to immediately halt these unlawful demolitions.” 

Dujarric said U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov had contacted Israeli authorities, including its military division in the West Bank, on the razing of Khirbet.  

Asked by CBS News about Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ reaction to the demolitions, Dujarric said they were “of concern to us.”

“We urge Israel to cease this practice across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” he said. “We stand against these acts and we have denounced them.” 


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