Up to three houses are being demolished every day and in some cases entire villages have been given blanket demolition orders by the Israeli authorities, three leading NGO's warned today. The demolition orders leave more than 300,000 Palestinians under threat of losing their homes.
‘Broken Homes,' a new report from Save the Children UK, Palestinian Counseling Centre (PCC) and Welfare Association has found that families whose houses are demolished are given little warning and often have no time to collect any belongings. The impact of losing their home also has long term consequences for their mental and physical health.
The report comes as US President Obama is putting pressure on the Israeli government to stop Israeli settlement growth in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).
Salam Kanaan, Save the Children UK Country Director in the OPT, said: "House demolitions in the OPT have escalated and thousands of families and in some cases entire villages remain under the threat of bulldozers arriving to destroy their homes and being displaced any day."
"The majority of house demolitions are carried out for so called‘administrative' reasons or as a result of military operations. Families lose everything when their homes are demolished; clothes, food and furniture are all buried in the rubble. There is precious little help for these families who are left with nothing, no support, no protection."
Since house demolitions started in 1967 it is estimated that the Israeli civilian and military authorities have destroyed over 24,000 homes. However, since 2000 the number of homes being destroyed has escalated with an average of more than a 1,000 homes demolished every year.
This year (2009) has seen a massive increase, with more homes being destroyed than at any time since the Israeli occupation began over 40 years ago. Nearly 4,000 homes were destroyed as a result of the military offensive in Gaza at the start of the year.
Broken Homes' surveyed families whose homes have been demolished and found that:
- More than half (52%) of the homes were demolished in a collective demolition where a series of homes or neighborhood was razed.
- Two people were killed during the demolition of their homes.
- Only 13% of families had a chance to collect their belongings before demolition began.
- 97% of parents are at risk of a mental breakdown as a result of their homes being demolished.
- Children whose homes have been demolished show a decline in their mental health, suffering classic signs of trauma, becoming withdrawn, depressed and anxious.
- The majority of families whose houses were demolished were repeatedly displaced for long periods of time - over half the families (61%) took at least two years to find somewhere permanent to live.
- Over a quarter of families had to split in order to find somewhere to stay.
Once a house is demolished, the family not only loses their home and its contents but is also liable for the costs of the actual house demolition. This can run into thousands of dollars.
East Jerusalem residents, rural communities in the West Bank, Bedouin, and refugees living in camps, communities close to the Separation Wall or settlements, and areas near Gaza's borders are at the greatest risk of displacement from building or house demolition. More than 300,000 Palestinians live in these areas.
As well as an immediate halt to all house demolitions, Save the Children UK, Palestinian Counseling Centre and Welfare Association demand a dramatic improvement in the assistance provided for the victims of house demolitions, especially children.
Rana Nashashibi, Director of the PCC, said: "Calls for Israel to halt house demolitions have fallen on deaf ears. House demolitions traumatize children and their families, leaving them with long term psychological problems that are very difficult to overcome. Israel, the occupying power, must immediately halt the demolition of Palestinian homes, which constitute a violation of international law. The international community must put pressure on them to do so."