Israel tears down Bedouin tents in Palestinian village

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -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.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said around 35 children were among those at risk of “(forced) transfer” following the demolitions in the Jordan Valley village of Khirbet Humsah.

Palestinians and rights groups accuse Israel of trying to forcibly clear out Khirbet Humsah’s 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.

“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, a branch of Israel’s defense ministry, 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 the Bedouin in Khirbet Humsah 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.

Israeli authorities have demolished at least 421 structures belonging to Palestinians in the first half of 2021, a 30% increase over the same period in 2020, the NRC said in a statement.

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta, Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams; Editing by William Maclean)