Several Israeli army vehicles, accompanied by an armored bulldozer, invaded the
village of Walaja, west of the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, and demolished a Palestinian home in the village on Tuesday morning.
Israeli troops surrounded the house of Munther Hamad, keeping family members away, while bulldozers demolished the home, eyewitnesses told the IMEMC. This is the third time that Hamad's home has been demolished by Israeli forces. The first two times his home was destroyed, he invested significant amounts into re-building. It's unknown whether he will rebuild now, for a fourth time, on his land.
Walaja village, located along the 'Green Line' border with Israel, has a long history of having their village land expropriated by Israel. In the 1967 war, Israel forced the original inhabitants of Walaja village from their land, and those refugees moved to the other side of the valley or beyond. The remains of the last two houses of the original village, now known as “Old Walaja”, still stand empty on the edge of what is supposed to be the 'Green Line' border with Israel.
The Israeli Jerusalem Municipality has announced plans to build a settlement called Givat Yael on the land of Walaja. Since the decision to build a new settlement there was made during the 'disengagement' of Gaza in 2005, it hasn't yet been implemented.
However, it has become clear that this year, the State of Israel has been stepping up the campaign against the residents of Walaja. Since the beginning of 2006, the Israeli army has issued demolition orders to 72 homes. The Palestinian owners of 32 of those homs managed to win a lawsuit against the army in late August 2006 which stopped their houses from being demolished for the time being. But the other 40 homes are still under 'demolition orders ' from Israel, and could be demolished at any time.
According to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, 90% of the Palestinian homes which are demolished by Israeli forces are 'administrative demolitions', that is, Israel issues orders to demolish the homes because of a 'lack of permit' for building. Since 1967, however, no permits have been issued by Israeli authorities for Palestinians to build on their own land. The other 10% of demolitions are 'punitive demolitions' of homes belonging to the families of Palestinians who have been taken prisoner or killed by Israel for resistance to the occupation.