Holy Land: Israel demolishes Palestinian children's playground

Bulldozers crush playground - image:  UNWRA

Bulldozers crush playground - image: UNWRA

Israeli forces on Tuesday demolished a children's park near Nablus and three Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank village of al-Walaja amid a mass escalation in demolitions across the occupied area this year. A PA official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas, told Ma'an news service that Israeli bulldozers razed a children's park in Zaatara south of Nablus.

The Israeli authorities gave no prior notice before demolishing the park, which was built last year with around $60,000 donated by Belgium through the Municipal Developing and Lending Fund, Daghlas said.

Locals told Ma'an that bulldozers escorted by Israeli military forces also raided the Ein al-Jweizeh area in northern al-Walaja near Bethlehem, demolishing three homes that were still under construction. The homeowners were reportedly told that the demolitions were carried out due to lack of proper building permits. Israeli military forces had raided the village several days prior to take photos of a number of homes and deliver demolition orders to their owners.

A spokesperson for Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) had no information on the demolitions, and the Israeli army told Ma'an they were looking into the reports.

The demolitions mark the most recent to take place amid an intensified demolition campaign on Palestinian homes and structures across the occupied Palestinian territory this year.

More than 800 Palestinians have now been displaced since the start of 2016 due to the demolition of more than 500 houses in the occupied West Bank by the Israeli authorities, according to UN figures. The majority have been carried out in Area C - under full jurisdiction of the Israeli military - where nearly 100 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits are denied by the Israeli authorities.

Last week, around 124 Palestinian men, women and children were displaced in a single day from nine different communities, including the village of Khirbet Tana which has been destroyed four times over since the start of the year.

Residents of al-Walaja where Tuesday's demolitions took place have lost over three-quarters of their land since Israel was established in 1948.

Israel's separation wall encircles al-Walaja, and swathes of land have been reappropriated by the Israeli government for the construction and expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements of Gilo, Har Gilo, and Givat Yael. The government has also planned to confiscate hundreds of acres from al-Walaja for the establishment of a national park.

The record high number demolitions this year comes as the Palestinian Authority is expected to present a draft resolution condemning Israeli settlements to the UN Security Council in New York in two weeks. Despite repeated condemnations by the international community, Israel has come under little actual pressure to halt its settlement program, land seizures, or the forced displacement of Palestinian communities.

The Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders condemned the destruction of the children's playground. They have asked for an explanation from the Israeli government through the Ambassador in Brussels and via the Belgian Embassy in Tel Aviv.

In a statement the Belgian government said: "This destruction of a project aimed at essential basic infrastructures is unacceptable. The projects of Belgium aim at responding to humanitarian needs and are conducted in accordance with international humanitarian law."

"Ministers De Croo and Reynders expressed again, last March, their deep concern following the worrying increase in the number of demolitions and confiscations of structures and humanitarian projects in Area C. The European Union also repeated, in the conclusions adopted at the Foreign Affairs Council in January 2016, that it is firmly opposed to the settlement policy and to the measures taken in this context, such as, in particular, demolitions and confiscations. This policy and the measures taken in this context go against the solution based on the coexistence of two states, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security and mutual recognition.

"Belgium is not the only international donor affected by such destructions, and projects funded by our European partners or by the European Commission have also been affected by acts of the same type, or are threatened to be. Belgium is therefore committed to actively continue the discussion at European level on the issue of compensations that have to be paid by Israel in such cases."

Source: Ma'an News/Kingdom of Belgium

Tags: Alexander De Croo, demolish, Didier Reynders, Holy Land, Israel, Nablus, playground

We Need Your Support

ICN aims to provide speedy and accurate news coverage of all subjects of interest to Catholics and the wider Christian community. As our audience increases - so do our costs. We need your help to continue this work.

Please support our journalism by donating today.