Israel's army has demolished the homes of nearly 80 Palestinian Bedouins in the occupied West Bank, officials and witnesses said Wednesday, in a rare operation targeting an entire community at once.
Late Tuesday, Israeli bulldozers razed the village -- including tents, sheds, portable toilets and solar panels -- near Tubas in the Jordan Valley, according to an AFP photographer at the scene, who found dozens of people left homeless.
Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh accused Israeli troops of having "completely demolished the village of Homsa al-Baqia, leaving around 80 people homeless".
The branch of Israel's army responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank, COGAT, said it had destroyed structures "built illegally in a firing zone (military training area) in the Jordan Valley".
The Jordan Valley falls in the West Bank's Area C that is fully controlled by Israel's army, which has occupied the West Bank since 1967.
Under Israeli rules, Palestinians cannot build structures in the area without permits, which are typically refused, and demolitions are common.
According to Abdelghani Awada, left homeless by the operation, the Israelis who arrived in vehicles and with bulldozers gave people "10 minutes to evacuate our homes".
"Then they started bulldozing," he told AFP.
He stressed that his family had lived in the area for generations and accused Israel of trying to "empty the Jordan Valley of its Palestinian population".
The late-night operation in Homsa al-Baqia was unusual given that so many homes were targeted at the same time, according to the Israeli anti-occupation non-government organisation B'Tselem.
"The wiping off of a whole community at once is extremely rare, and it seems like Israel was making use of the fact that everyone's attention is currently set elsewhere to move forward with this inhumane act," B'Tselem said in a statement sent to AFP, referring to the US presidential election.
In a separate statement B'Tselem said that "while the world deals with the coronavirus crisis, Israel has devoted time and effort to harassing Palestinians instead of helping... residents living under its control".
B'Tselem, which tracks demolition data, said that 798 Palestinians in the West Bank have been left homeless by Israeli demolitions so far this year.
That is already the highest annual tally since 2016, the year the organisation began collecting such data.