July 18, 2024
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July 18, 2024
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House Demolitions and Land Grabs No One Talks About

While the international community and media continue to condemn Israel day in and day out about a host of grievances, including the demolition of houses built without proper permits, no one seems to be interested in the ongoing human rights violations against Palestinians by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

The United Nations and many foreign journalists are so obsessed with Israel that they have paid no attention to the latest crime committed by Hamas against residents of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Nasr in the northern Gaza Strip. The village was established nearly 80 years ago, long before Hamas was founded in 1988.

On June 9, hundreds of Hamas security officers raided the village to destroy several houses, as part of the terror group’s attempt to evict the residents from the area. Hamas claims that the village was illegally built on “state-owned” land.

The raid on the village, the first of its kind since Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, triggered clashes between the residents and the officers. The residents threw stones at the officers, who responded by firing live ammunition at the protesters.

At least 25 villagers were injured during the clashes, eight of them from gunfire. Sources in the Gaza Strip said that at least one Hamas officer was injured.

After the violent clashes, Hamas security forces arrested 85 villagers.

The raid on the village came after the Hamas-controlled Land Authority in the Gaza Strip ruled that the residents must be evacuated because they had built their homes on “state-owned” lands. Emad al-Baz, head of the Land Authority, accused the villagers of “transgression” on the disputed land.

Sources in the Gaza Strip said that there are 28 more villages slated for demolition by Hamas on the pretext that they were illegally built on public lands.

Yahya Abu Thariyeh, a resident of Umm al-Nasr, said that dozens of Hamas officers in uniforms and civilian clothes who raided the village managed to demolish one house before the violent clashes erupted there. He accused the Hamas officers of using excessive force and raiding several houses without a court order, intimidating the residents, which included women and disabled children. “The Hamas security forces prevented the ambulances from entering the village,” Abu Thariyeh recounted. “Although the [Hamas] security forces brought with them an ambulance, its team refused to provide medical treatment to the injured. That’s why we had to take the injured to hospital in our cars,” he continued.

The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) said that it views with great concern the events that took place in the village of Umm al-Nasr, “which led to the injury of a number of citizens and damage to a number of houses.”

The human rights group revealed that members of Hamas’s military wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam, took part in the raid on the village. The force also stormed several houses in the village and arrested 40 civilians, according to ICHR.

An investigation conducted by the human rights group concluded that the Hamas security personnel used excessive force during the confrontations with the villagers.

The group stressed that it is not acceptable for Hamas officers in civilian clothes to participate in such raids.

ICHR called for the immediate release of all the detainees and for launching an investigation into the actions of the Hamas security forces. It also called for holding accountable the security personnel who fired shots and gave instructions to deal with the incident in a violent manner.

While the international community remains silent towards this latest assault by Hamas on its own people, many Palestinians have denounced the terror group.

Hussein Hamayel, a senior official with the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction, condemned the raid on the village as a “crime.” He accused Hamas leaders of seeking to lay their hands on lands in the Gaza Strip and divide them among themselves and their loyalists. “Hamas’s actions are aggravating the humanitarian and social crises in the Gaza Strip,” Hamayel said.

Palestinian journalist Hisham Sakallah pointed out that “the violence and oppression perpetrated against the Bedouin villagers reflect a small part portion of what happened 16 years ago when Hamas carried out a coup against the Palestinian Authority and seized control of the Gaza Strip.”

Sakallah was referring to the violent clashes that erupted in the Gaza Strip in 2007, during which Hamas men executed Fatah rivals, blew up homes and dragged the body of a senior Fatah member through the streets. They also threw Fatah gunmen from the roofs of tall buildings.

Sakallah praised social media users for shedding light on the Hamas crimes against the residents of Umm al-Nasr. “What bothered and provoked me the most was that the official spokesmen for Hamas did not issue statements,” he remarked.

An unnamed resident of Umm al-Nasr was quoted as saying: “What happened is a barbaric and brutal Hamas-Iranian attack on the poor people in the Gaza Strip, who have been very patient with the killings, poverty, and hunger resulting from the policies of Hamas. The people of the Gaza Strip have paid with their blood as a result of the policies and practices of Hamas.”

Egyptian writer Ali Rajab pointed out the hypocrisy of Hamas in dealing with the Bedouin communities in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Rajab said that while Hamas has been trying to present itself as the defender of the Bedouin citizens of Israel, it is targeting the Bedouin living under its control in the Gaza Strip by demolishing their homes and confiscating their lands.

Hamas’s ongoing efforts to raze entire villages in the Gaza Strip is seen by many Palestinians as the terror group tightening its grip on the coastal enclave, home to some two million Palestinians. It is also seen by many Palestinians as part of widespread corruption in Hamas, whose leaders want to seize lands for their personal use.

“Hamas is trying to control all the public lands in the Gaza Strip,” said Mahmoud al-Zaq, secretary-general of the National Work Commission in the Gaza Strip. “Hamas wants the lands in order to carry out its own projects. These lands, however, should be allocated to building hospitals for the Palestinians.”

Hamas’s practices against the Palestinians do not come as a surprise to many Palestinians, especially those who have been living under its repressive regime in the Gaza Strip since 2007. What does continue to surprise many, however, is the ongoing silence of the international community, human rights groups, the United Nations and many mainstream media organizations toward the Hamas crimes.

Had the raid on the Bedouin village in the Gaza Strip been carried out by Israel, we would have seen scores of foreign journalists and the United Nations rush to the area to report about Israeli “crimes” and “ethnic cleansing.”

The residents of the village are unfortunate: they are Palestinians who were attacked by a Palestinian government and Palestinian security forces. The international media, whose representatives often report about the demolition of illegal houses by Israel, are unlikely to report about the plight of the Umm al-Nasr villagers because this is a story lacking an anti-Israel angle —no Jew was involved in the attack on the village in the Gaza Strip.

The foreign journalists and human rights organizations who continue to ignore such oppressive practices by Hamas are doing a massive injustice to the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

By turning a blind eye to the atrocities of Hamas, the journalists and human rights organizations are once again engaging in a dangerous double standard. Their obsession with Israel allows Hamas to persist in committing violent crimes against the Palestinians without receiving negative media coverage—much less being held accountable for pillaging and devastating Palestinian communities.

Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.

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