30 October 2008
AT-TUWANI URGENT ACTION: Ask Israeli authorities why the Israeli military demolished homes in Um al Kher, South Hebron Hills
[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]
At 9:10 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday 29 October 2008, the Israeli military demolished ten Palestinian dwellings in the South Hebron Hills village of Um al Kher, leaving around sixty people, including young children, homeless.
The military arrived without warning shortly after 9:00 a.m. Soldiers gave the villagers little time to remove their possessions before demolishing four stone homes and six metal dwellings with a bulldozer. Um al Kher is situated close to the Israeli settlement of Karmel and the demolished homes were those closest to the settlement.
Palestinians and internationals from At-Tuwani attempted to reach Um al Kher in order to prevent or at least witness the demolitions. The Israeli military stopped their vehicle on Route 317, and told them the area was a closed military zone. However, Israeli vehicles were allowed to travel freely in both directions.
By 11:00 a.m., the military finished its destruction of the homes. At 11:40 villagers rushed to move their possessions into the cover of their friends tented homes when a heavy downpour of rain began.
A villager told CPTers, "The children are not here, they were frightened and ran away." Another villager, a twenty-one-year-old woman with a social work degree told how relieved she was that her mother had been out with the goats when the soldiers came so she did not have to witness the demolition of their home. The young woman had complained to an Israeli military officer that a soldier threatened to hit her. The officer's response was, "If he went to hit you that's
nice. If he hit you, it's very nice."
A young mother, holding her baby as she sat outside a neighbour's tent, told CPTers, "My baby in rain. Where my baby sleep?"
Within an hour of the army's departure, assistance arrived in the form of CARE International, International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA will supply blankets and kitchen utensils. At present, the villagers know of no organization able to help them rebuild their homes.
The Israeli military demolished these homes in violation of article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory. We urge you to write to the Israeli Embassy or Consulate in your home country, reminding the diplomatic staff of this fact, and demanding that the authorities answer the following questions:
· Why did the Israeli military demolish these homes?
· Why did the military choose to demolish them at the start of the winter rain season?
· Where will the young woman's baby and the other villagers sleep?
Contact information for embassies and consulates
Photos of the demolished homes can be viewed at
Letter writers are encouraged to share these photos with the embassies/consulates they contact.