‘I Shouted at the Soldiers’ – As Gaza War Grinds on, Israel is Demolishing the West Bank

Demolition in the village of Al-Walaja, west of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank. (Photo: via WAFA)

By Fayha Shalash – Ramallah

You may contest the decision, hire a lawyer, file a petition or ten, and even yell at the soldiers to stop. But nothing will work, because the decision to demolish Palestinian homes is a political one.

Four weeks ago, Jamal al-Saifi was taken aback when he saw Israeli bulldozers surround his home in the village of Al-Walaja, west of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank.

At first, the 63-year-old thought that Israeli forces only wanted to intimidate him.

However, it was not long before his house was turned into rubble, with all its contents on top.

The Al-Saifi family was one of seven Palestinian families in the village whose homes were demolished by Israel under the pretext of not having a building permit. 

They were all located in the so-called Area C, which is under full Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords.

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Hidden Goals

For many years, Israel has been deliberately demolishing Palestinian homes in Area C, which constitutes approximately 60 percent of the occupied West Bank.

Since 2023, and specifically following the formation of the current Israeli government, demolitions of Palestinian homes have significantly escalated.

Usually, the pretext for the demolition is the lack of a building permit. The real goals, however, are different: from the Judaization of the area, to the expulsion of the local residents, and the illegal settlement expansion.

The Palestine Chronicle spoke with al-Saifi, who lost his home and lived through the horrors of demolition.

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‘I Shouted at Soldiers’

Al-Saifi built his house in the Juwiza area, inside the village of Al-Walaja, in 2017.

He lived there with nine members of his family, including his married son.

Al-Saifi has repeatedly tried to obtain a license for his house from the Israeli occupation authorities that control the area but to no avail.

“I have applied for a building permit dozens of times, but Israel always refused. I have also appointed lawyers and filed a lawsuit with the Israeli courts, just to obtain a license for my home, but nothing worked,” he said.

As al-Saifi continued his attempts to obtain a permit for his house, the Israeli army handed him a notice, warning him that the building would be demolished.

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“I shouted at the soldiers trying to explain the situation. I told them that I had tried so hard to obtain a permit,” he continued.

“They looked at me and said: ‘We only know that your house is threatened with demolition’.”

For his long legal battle, al-Saifi has paid exorbitant sums of money for lawyers’ fees and Israeli court hearings, in an attempt to freeze the demolition order.

But on February 19, the Israeli army surrounded his home and demanded that the family immediately evacuate. 

Al-Saifi said the Israeli soldiers did not even allow him to remove a single piece of furniture. They demolished the building along with its contents.

“I saw my dream being destroyed before my eyes. I cried hard, as I knew that there was nothing I could do: they (the Israeli authorities – PC) do not want us here, this is the only reason,” Jamal said.


Not only did Israeli authorities demolish seven houses in the neighborhood, but they also imposed financial fines on their owners and charged them with the material costs of the demolition.

Al-Saifi already paid 45,000 shekels (approximately $12,500) to the Israeli authorities throughout the years, trying to obtain a permit. 

Now, he will have to pay 20,000 shekels (approximately $12,500) more.

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Moreover, he was forced to rent a small house for himself and his family. 

“No one has helped us, we are alone in the face of this systematic oppression, and we cannot bear it anymore,” al-Saifi said.

“Our homes are being demolished before our eyes, and we cannot do anything to stop it.”

Controlling the Land

Suhail Khaliliyeh, Director of the Settlement Monitoring Unit at the Areej Institute for Applied Research, told The Palestine Chronicle that demolitions of homes and facilities by Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank have increased by 15 to 25 percent since the formation of the current Israeli government.

According to Khaliliyeh, the increase coincided with the allocation of a full budget to the so-called Illegal Palestinian Building Control Unit in Area C. In Jerusalem, too, a budget was allocated for the Building Control Unit in the Israeli-controlled municipality.

“Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich took powers from the Civil Administration and was able to cancel the objections of homeowners threatened with demolition,”  Khaliliyeh explained, noting that the government also granted him more power to shorten the procedure and enforce the demolition process quickly.

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On the other hand, according to Khaliliyeh, Smotrich has worked on shortening procedures to facilitate settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

“Even before October 7, these extremist politicians were on a mission to destroy the lives of Palestinians,” he stressed. 

“Their goal was to erase anything that existed and impose their repressive measures, including demolition, which are aimed at consolidating Israeli presence, and restricting Palestinian construction in Area C.”

Khaliliyeh also noted that, in recent years, Israeli authorities only approved two percent of the applications submitted by Palestinians to obtain a building permit in this area, which is considered of great strategic importance to Israel.

“Palestinians in Area C are subjected to unbearable harassment by Israeli authorities, with the aim of deporting them and controlling the land,” Khaliliyeh concluded.

(The Palestine Chronicle) 

– Fayha’ Shalash is a Ramallah-based Palestinian journalist. She graduated from Birzeit University in 2008 and she has been working as a reporter and broadcaster ever since. Her articles appeared in several online publications. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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