ICC condemns Israeli demolition of Bedouin tents erected on IDF firing range as a “war crime”

The list of alleged Israeli war crimes being investigated by the International Criminal Court is growing longer as the United Nations organization added the demolition of the Bedouin campground, Khirbat Humsa in the Jordan Valley. The ICC is responding to a claim submitted by the Israeli left-wing NGO Combatants for Peace to the Office of the ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan.

Bedouin squatters on IDF live-fire range

“The information will be added to our collection of information and transmitted to relevant staff members for further review,” Khan’s office said.

In 1972, Israel declared Khirbat Humsa to be a live-fire zone, according to court filings. In 2005, Khirbet Humsa al-Fawqa was reported as having been completely evacuated. Bedouins illegally squatted on the land and in November 2020, Israel destroyed illegal structures that had been erected by local Bedouins, displacing 73 Bedouin. Most of the structures were tents and no permanent structures had been built. The construction was funded by European sources. 

The Bedouin residents appealed to the Israeli High Court before the demolition but in 2019, the court rejected the petition and ruled they had no legal right to stay in the area. 

The petitioners have no recognized property rights in these areas. These are intruders who use these areas for grazing,” the High Court said. In their decision, the High Court said that the evacuation would also serve the personal safety of the residents, due to the army’s presence in the area.

Khirbet Humsa was demolished at least two more times as the Bedouins returned and erected illegal structures.

The Jordan Valley is in Area C, under Israeli security and civilian control according to the 1995 Oslo Accords. According to the agreements, Israel is responsible for planning and construction in the area.

“They want what we have; Israel”

Naomi Kahn, Director of the international division of Regavim, an NGO that monitors illegal Arab and Bedouin construction, emphasized that the Bedouins had no legal claim to Khirbet Humsa.

“It is entirely state land,” Khan said. “The Bedouin have no legal or historical right to be there. We have photographs going back to 1947 showing that there was never anything there.”

“What has been happening for years is that Bedouin squat there and when the IDF wants to run an exercise, they give the bedouin advance warning and they take down their tents and move on until the exercise is over.”

“The Bedouin have always been nomads. Their claim is that they live in every place and every place is theirs. It simply doesn’t work that way in any society.”

“What is happening now is the PA and Europeans have gotten involved, instructing the Bedouin to protest and say it is their land. Now, when the IDF tells the bedouin there is going to be a military exercise, PA ministers and European representatives show up to protest.” 

The Israeli government has plans to create new communities for the Bedouin but the Bedouin who insist on squatting in Khirbet Humsa refuse to be a part of that plan.

“The Bedouin don’t want their own homes,” Khan said. “They want what we have which is the land of Israel.”

ICC: Problematic investigation

The ICC investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes was initiated by Khan’s predecessor, Fatou Bensouda, in December 2019. The initial report by the court questioned whether the ICC had jurisdiction since Israel is not a member of the ICC. The ICC also questioned whether Israeli courts’ investigations obviated any need for intervention by the ICC. Israel stood accused of violating international law by allowing Jews to live in Judea and Samaria. 

Israel also claimed that the ICC investigation was invalid as Palestine is not an actual independent political entity. 

The ICC alleged that the IDF perpetrated war crimes in its incursion into Gaza in 2014 in response to thousands of Hamas rockets fired at Israeli cities. The ICC also alleged that the IDF violated international law by using lethal and non-lethal means to repel violent riots on the Gaza border. In addition, the court stated it would also investigate alleged war crimes carried out by Hamas and the PA. 

By bringing the claims, the PA violated a legally binding agreement it had made with the US government not to bring charges against Israel in the ICC. In response, President Trump closed the PLO mission to Washington D.C.

According to its website, the “‘Combatants for Peace’ movement was started jointly by former Israeli soldiers and Palestinians who were “part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom.” While claiming to “allow each side to understand the other’s narrative,” Combatants for Peace activities reflect a strong affiliation with the Palestinian agenda and narrative, placing most of the blame for the conflict on “the occupation.” As such, most of their funding comes from the European and the anti-Israel New Israel Fund. The organization has called for sanctions against Israel and holds annual Nakba day ceremonies to commemorate the “tragedy” of the establishment of Israel. Yonatan Shapira, CFP’s founder, has referred to the Israeli army as a “terrorist organization,” and accused Israel of engaging in “massacres.”

 


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