Israeli authorities have demolished several homes in the strategically sensitive E1 region of the occupied West Bank, displacing at least 17 Palestinians, among them children.
Israeli troops forcibly evacuated local residents and bulldozers flattened four homes in the Jabal al-Baba community, on the outskirts of occupied East Jerusalem, on Thursday, according to a local spokesman.
“They showed up at four in the morning and removed everyone from their homes – men, women, children,” Daoud al-Jahalin, the spokesman of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe in the neighbouring village of Abu Nuwwar, told Al Jazeera.
There were no journalists there to witness it so they did it all by force, pointing their weapons at people and hitting many of the young men.”
Jabal al-Baba and Abu Nuwar are among more than 20 Palestinian Bedouin villages – known as the Jahalin communities – in the E1 area of the central West Bank.
An estimated 300 people live in Jabal al-Baba, while another 700 live next door in Abu Nuwar.
Israel intends to demolish those communities and build Jewish-only settlements in their place, effectively dissecting the West Bank into separate halves and eliminating the possibility of territorial congruity in a potential Palestinian state.
According to Israel’s relocation plan, the local Palestinian residents will be moved to a nearby planned township less than a kilometre away and provided with basic services that they have been so far denied, including electricity, water and sewage services.
“Legally speaking, [this] involves elements of war crimes and crimes against humanity particularly related to extensive destruction of property, land appropriation and further persecution of Palestinians,” Mona Sabella of the Al-Haq rights group told Al Jazeera.
“The plan would result in further violations of fundamental rights, including the right to self-determination, the right to freedom of movement and the right to health, among others.”
Throughout occupied East Jerusalem and its peripheries, some 90,000 Palestinians are facing potential displacement, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
According to a Al-Haq report published last month, life for Palestinian Jerusalemites has grown more difficult in recent months, with Israeli forces using live ammunition at a greater frequency, raiding hospitals and erecting more checkpoints, among other measures.
Yet most of the Jahalin communities’ residents are already UN-registered refugees who were uprooted in 1951 when the newly formed Israeli government expelled them from their ancestral lands in the Negev region of the country.
“This would be the second time we are displaced,” Jahalin said.
Israel’s Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, told Al Jazeera that “demolitions were carried out” to remove “illegal structures” from the area.
Thursday’s demolitions came just a day after Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah condemned the forcible displacement of the Jahalin communities.
“Israel’s systematic violation of international laws is no longer acceptable by the international community,” Hamdallah said in a statement released on Tuesday.