Ramallah: Israeli military bulldozers demolished the biggest West Bank-based dairy factory in Hebron on Tuesday morning, triggering clashes in the city that left several Palestinian youths hospitalised.
A large number of Israeli troops raided the city of Hebron, south of the West Bank, early in the morning and started the demolition of the factory, which stretches over 15 hectares in the Al Rama area.
The factory served as a critical source of funds for the Islamic Charitable Association, which sponsors Palestinian orphans.
Shaikh Hatem Al Bakri, chairperson of the association, told Gulf News that the Israelis had been talking about plans to dry up all kinds of financial aid for Palestinian orphans and claimed that the estimated losses due to the demolition of the factory amounted to $2 million (Dh7.34 million).
The association had earlier received a demolition order from the Israeli military, which raided the factory during Ramadan and seized all its equipment.
Al Bakri added that an Israeli court was scheduled to review a petition submitted by the association on September 7, but the Israeli military had demolished the factory disregarding the occupation’s judicial procedures. He contended that the Israeli military had thus pre-empted any possibility of the factory winning a legal reprieve.
Al Bakri said that the Israeli military had also labelled the charity itself a “Hamas-affiliated facility” without giving it any chance to explain its activities and Palestinian orphans were left to pay the price .
He said that given the financial difficulties the Palestinian territories endure, the dairy factory had been a key project to spare Palestinian orphans a life of misery.
A senior Palestinian National Authority official in Hebron told Gulf News that it is unequivocally known that the Israeli military had acted on uncertain security grounds, but official records show that the Israeli military had earlier targeted the factory claiming that a few square metres of the premises were built without an official building licence from the occupation authorities. The official added that a very small area of the premises came under Area C, over which the Israeli regime claims full jurisdiction, and the rest of the structure was officially licensed by the PNA.
The official said that, during the construction on the site, builders could not differentiate between areas falling under different jurisdictions as there had been no signs showing the boundaries of those areas.
In the petition submitted to the Israeli court, the charity had expressed readiness to take down parts of the factory to make it fully compliant with the rules so that a total demolition would be avoided. The official said that Israel used the generalisation that all social and welfare organisations in the Palestinian territories are Hamas-affiliated organisations to target Palestinian assets.