destroyed well: photo - Marta Kaszubska/PAH
Deputy foreign minister Jerzy Pomianowski told Polish Radio that the ministry asked Ambassador Zvi Rav-Nera to explain, Tuesday, why the damage occurred to restoration work done by the Polish Humanitarian Action charity in the village of El Rahawia as Israeli forces cleared what they say is an illegal settlement in the southern Hebron mountains.
"I invited the Israeli ambassador in to express our concern over the actions of the Israeli authorities in the West Bank related directly to the destruction of a well rebuilt by Polish Humanitarian Action with funds from the Polish foreign ministry," the minister said.
Israeli army bulldozers also demolished much of the small Palestinian village, which is situated in the Area C district of the West Bank, which is under direct Israeli control.
“In the morning I received a text message about demolition of the village,” Marta Kaszubska coordinator of the Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) mission in Jerusalem told the Onet.pl web site.
“I immediately went to the place. El Rahawia was razed to the ground […] leaving only three tents. I met people who lost their possessions – their entire lives,” she added.
Eighty three people, including 48 children, were made homeless by the Israeli army raid.
According to Israelis, the Polish charity had no legal permission from the Israeli administration on the occupied territories to carry out the project.
Deputy foreign minister Jerzy Pomianowski told the Israeli ambassador yesterday that even though the situation in the West Bank is very complex in the light of international law, in view of the friendly relations between Poland and Israel all problems should be resolved at the conference table.
The Israeli diplomat is said to have pledged to provide additional information on the army operation.
Israeli forces have repeatedly broken up villages, often little more than groups of makeshift tents with some buildings, as they had not obtained planning permission from the authorities to build there.
Polish Humanitarian Action says the wells and water tanks are needed by the villagers, as before the restoration, the locals had to buy the water at high prices from the Israelis.
Miss Sarit Michaeli, a spokesperson for Betselem, an Israeli Human Rights Organization, has told thenews.pl, however: "The current situation is that the civic authorities in Area C rarely issue new building permits to the Palestinians who live there. We believe that it is possible for Israel to have a policy which protects Israeli security interests as well as those of the local population living there."
Meanwhile, Major Guy Inbar, an Israeli army spokesman for the civil administration of the Area C area tells us that the villagers were given the chance to submit planning applications for the wells and other buildings.
“All the wells that were destroyed were built illegally,” he told us.
“This was done after the inhabitants were given the chance to present their claims to the relevant committee and refused to do so. After that they were asked to remove the tents and buildings themselves and but refused. Only then did the Israeli security forces take action. We regret that those responsible for the well did not build it legally after getting all the needed permits as other international aid organizations have done."
The French Foreign Affairs Committee published a report in January accusing Israel of discrimination against Palestinians in the area, particularly of systematically destroying wells and cisterns and denying locals access to water. “Approximately 450,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank consume more water than the 2.3 million Palestinians living there,” highlights the report.
The French identified the Israeli actions as "apartheid". (pg)
Reporting by Peter Gentle and Hagay Hacohen