Israeli occupation forces demolish family homes of Palestinian prisoners

Latifa (Umm Nasser) Abu Hmeid, with a photo of four of her imprisoned sons Photo:Quds News Network

Israeli occupation forces demolished the home of Latifa (Umm Nasser) Abu Hmeid, 72, the mother of five Palestinian prisoners and one killed by the Israeli occupation. Occupation forces exploded the home twice in a row after ringing the home with explosives, forcing over 400 Palestinians to be evacuated from their homes in al-Amari refugee camp. Occupation forces occupied the home for six hours, filling it with explosives.

They were detained inside a nearby school for over five hours as the residents of the camp struggled to defend the home and prevent its demolition. (During this mass detention, a woman gave birth to a baby inside the school, and medical treatment was delayed repeatedly by Israeli occupation forces.) Umm Nasser herself was detained for some time before being released. In a press statement, she reiterated her determination: “This is our land, and as long as there is occupation, we will resist.” 

The destroyed Abu Hmeid home. Photo: Quds News Network

Hundreds of occupation soldiers and dozens of military patrols stormed the camps with bulldozers and armored personnel vehicles, accompanied by aircraft overhead as well as drones apparently photographing the scene. The people of the camp resisted the occupation invasion, showering military vehicles with stones.  This explosion marked the third time that Latifa Abu Hmeid’s home was destroyed by the Israeli occupation; her family home was also destroyed in 1991 and 2003.

Occupation soldiers fired tear gas on the people of the camp, injuring dozens; Majdi Bannoura, a photographer from al-Jazeera, was injured when he was hit in the head with a tear gas canister. At least 10 people were transferred to nearby hospitals due to injuries, while snipers occupied the rooftops of homes throughout the camp as soldiers spread throughout its streets. 

The Abu Hmeid home being destroyed. Photo: Quds News Network

Occupation forces demanded the family demolish their own home within 48 hours after the imprisonment of Islam Abu Hmeid, 32, in June 2018, accused of participating in a resistance action that killed an Israeli colonial soldier actively invading Al-Amari refugee camp. Four of Islam’s brothers, Latifa’s sons, are currently imprisoned by Israel, and another son was killed during the first Intifada. 

The attack on the Abu Hmeid home was followed by the pre-dawn destruction of the Na’alwa family home in Shweika, north of Tulkarem. As hundreds of Palestinians gathered to protect the family home, occupation forces attacked the village, invading at 3:00 a.m., firing rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas on the people of the village to force them away from the home and demolishing the walls of the home’s first floor.

Image: Hundreds of Palestinians gather outside the Na’alwa home. Credit: Palestine Information Center

Palestinian youth resisted the invasion, committed to protecting the home from the occupation attack. Three Palestinians were shot by rubber-coated metal bullets and another was burned by an Israeli occupation projectile. The people of the village had maintained a sit-in around the home after the occupation forces ordered the demolition of the ground and first floors of the home, and schools were closed due to the massive presence of colonial soldiers.

Ashraf Na’alwa, 23, was killed by occupation forces on Thursday, 13 December, one of a series of extrajudicial executions by the Israeli colonial forces. He had evaded occupation forces for over 60 days after carrying out an armed resistance action. His brother, brother-in-law and mother are all currently imprisoned by the Israeli occupation because they did not divulge the location of their son, who was killed far from home in the Askar refugee camp in Nablus.

Image: Khalil Jabarin’s mother. Credit: Quds News

Now, the home of imprisoned Palestinian Khalil Jabarin in the village of Yatta near al-Khalil has been ordered demolished within 48 hours. Khalil, 17, is accused of participating in an armed resistance action at the illegal Israeli colonial settlement of Gush Etzion. Khalil’s mother spoke to Quds News, saying that “the home demolition policy of the occupation is not a deterrent to resistance fighters or their families. On the contrary, it increases their strength, determination, resilience and resistance.” She noted the widespread support she and the family have received from fellow Palestinians. 

Sheikh Khader Adnan, recently freed from prison after his third hunger strike to secure his release, said that these home demolitions are a form of collective punishment and systematic terror aimed at stifling the youth of the Palestinian resistance. However, Adnan said, “The Palestinian people will not bow down, despite home demolitions, mass arrests and the policy of collective punishment. What has happened recently in the West Bank has done nothing but increase Palestinians’ strength and steadfastness.”

He also commented on announced threats by the occupation to deport the family members of resistance strugglers, saying that this would also fail to suppress the resistance. “Palestinians have always shown that they will hold to their land and preserve their Palestinian identity and roots in the most difficult of conditions,” he said. He urged the strongest support for these young people and their families, who have sacrificed so much for the liberation of Palestine. 

Like administrative detention, the imprisonment of Palestinians without charge or trial, home demolitions by colonial forces in Palestine date back to the British colonial mandate in Palestine. Home demolitions are a form of collective punishment that targets entire families and violates binding international law, including the Geneva Convention, which notes that “no protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or terrorism are prohibited…” 

These arbitrary demolitions, of course, operate hand in hand with a larger Israeli goal of settlement building and exclusion of the indigenous people of the land and over 70 years of continuing Nakba. After all, many home demolitions in Palestine take place after Palestinians build without Israeli permits (constantly delayed or denied) on their own land. Entire Palestinian villages and neighborhoods, like Khan al-Ahmar in Jerusalem, Umm al-Hiran in the Naqab or al-Araqib, destroyed over 100 times, are targeted for destruction. These “punitive” home demolitions, which the Israeli occupation claims to be a “deterrent” for resistance, must be seen in the overall context of colonial settlement and destruction. 

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network stands in solidarity with the Abu Hmeid family, the Na’alwa family, the Jabarin family and all Palestinian families whose homes and lives are under constant attack by a settler colonial force. Israel’s policy of home demolition and the complete impunity it enjoys on an official level only highlight the necessity of international collective and grassroots action and organizing to support the Palestinian people, including building the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to isolate Israel at all levels, including economic, cultural and academic boycott and a military embargo on the occupaiton state.