THE Israeli military authorities on Tuesday demolished a recently completed building that had been prepared as a Covid-19 testing centre, close to the northern entrance to Hebron, a town in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. They said that the landowner had failed to obtain a permit to build there.
A resident of Hebron said on Tuesday that he had watched three bulldozers destroy the structure, two days before it was due to open as a testing centre. The military authorities had previously removed equipment from the building.
The building was located in a part of Hebron designated as Area C, meaning that it is under the total control of the Israeli military. Under military regulation 1797, introduced in April 2018, the owner of an illegal building is given 96 hours to produce a permit, or face demolition. The regulation applies to all structures, including ones intended for humanitarian use.
The owners of the site were served with the initial order on 12 July. The Church Times has seen a photo of the subsequent document authorising demolition, printed in Hebrew and Arabic and dated 21 July, which was issued by the “Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria”, as the body governing the West Bank is called in Israel.
Raed Maswadeh, whose family owned the land, told the online news platform Middle East Eye that they had donated it for the testing centre after an appeal from the Hebron municipality for funds for a new facility to boost existing capacity. Hebron has been more seriously affected by the pandemic than other West Bank urban centres.
He admitted that they had not applied for a permit because they knew that one would not be granted, but “thought that maybe during Covid-19 there would be exceptions”. Israeli troops had made no attempt to stop the construction of the building — a venture that had cost the family around £190,000.
The Church Times contacted the Israeli Defence Forces for a comment, but no response was received before the Church Times went to press on Wednesday.