editor’s note: Two remarkably different reports on the demolition of coal workshops in the West Bank are presented below. Read both for the contrasts!

10 wood-coal workshops demolished near Jenin – Ma’an

ENIN (Ma’an) — Israeli bulldozers began to remove Wednesday several wood-coal workshops in the Jenin-area town of Barta’a Ash-Sharqiya, located inside the Green Line but separated from its neighbors by Israel’s separation wall.

Along with the destruction of the workshops, Israeli forces confiscated a number of the heavy machinery and industrial equipment on the site, owners said.

According to Tawfiq Qabha, a member of the Barta’a village council, the demolition crews arrived at 6 a.m. and included six bulldozers which almost immediately began to take down the workshops.

“They were taken down under pretext that the smoke affects the nearby settlement and that those workshops are not licensed,” Qabha said, estimating damages in the tens of millions of shekels.

Qabha said workshop owners had first been told their businesses were being targeted for demolition in 2009 but jointly hired legal council and took the case to court. “The lawyer was able to put a hold on the demolitions, but today the workshops were taken down,” Qabha said.

During the demolitions, he added, sheds and barracks that wood-coal laborers slept in on overnight shifts were also demolished, along with coal storage containers.

The demolitions caused fires to break out on some of the properties, Qabaha said and blazed for hours before Palestinian fire crews were permitted access to the area. He added that the tractors of workshop owners Jamal Sharif Amarnah and Yasser Uthman Qabha were confiscated without cause.

Workers attempted to put out the fires that had spread to demolished and other buildings still standing and managed to prevent significant secondary damages, Qabha said.

“Jamal Amarnah lost about half a million shekels, Farid Qabha lost nearly a quarter of a million, and other owners suffered a similarly great losses,” the official said.

He named the workshop owners affected by the demolitions as Jamal Sharif Amarna, Yasser Uthman Qabha, Hassan Khatib, Subhi Hassan Zaid, Hakam Al-Khatib, Sharif Talal Anis, Ziyad Tawfiq Anis, Farid Hassan Qabha, Farhan Mahmoud Qabha and Muhammad Jamil Al-Khatib.

A representative from Israel’s Civil Administration office could not be reached for comment.

The demolitions come amidst a string of similar incidents, many involving homes. The Israeli rights group B’Tselem released a report Wednesday saying June had seen a “sharp increase in home demolitions.”

“In the past week, Civil Administration inspectors, accompanied by soldiers and Border Police officers, demolished 33 residential structures in the Palestinian communities Fasayil, al-Hadidiyeh, and Yarza, all in the Jordan Valley, and in Khirbet Bir al-‘Id, in the southern Hebron hills. These were home to 238 persons, 129 of them minors,” the report cataloged.

Fire crews prevented from accessing area

When the fires broke out in the area, Palestinian fire crews were called to extinguish the blaze, but were held up at the Reikhan Barta’a checkpoint for hours as the fire raged, head of civil defense department in Jenin A’ta Abu Ar-Rub told Ma’an.

Soldiers searched the fire trucks and their personnel, Ar-Rub said, as the burning buildings set fire to a nearby olive grove, and then a field of dry grass.

The crews were finally allowed access to the site and put out the blaze.


Ministry shuts 32 charcoal operations in Samaria – Haaretz

Less than a year ago, the Environment Ministry carried out a check of the air quality in the area and found high concentrations of pollutants.
By Zafrir Rinat

The Ministry of Environment and the Civil Administration shut down 32 charcoal-making operations in Palestinian villages in northern Samaria yesterday, following ongoing complaints by area residents about the pollution they produce. Environment Minister Gilad Erdan accompanied his staff on the operation, which took place several months after the Civil Administration issued warrants ordering the closure of the operations targetted yesterday.

In northern Samaria alone there are an estimated 400 such operations which produce charcoal for use in barbecues.

Palestinian laborers at a charcoal operation in the West Bank in 2011.
Photo by: Alon Ron

Yesterday’s operation saw the closure of 11 operations near Mitzpeh Ilan, 13 in the area of the Reihan Crossing on the Green Line, and eight others in the area of Barta’a.

Wood for the charcoal operations in northern Samaria come mainly from Israel. The process of controlled burning lasts 23 days, after which the charcoals are ready for use in barbecues. During the first three days of the burning process, a large amount of smoke is produced and then carried by the winds to nearby Israeli communities, including Mitzpeh Ilan and Kibbutz Metzer.

Some of the operations have been in operation for decades, but in recent years the number of new operations has grown. Adjacent Israeli communities complained of strong smells and respiratory problems caused by the pollution.

The Environment Ministry said yesterday that the Palestinians suffer from the pollution even more. For example, residents of the village of Ya’abed, near Jenin, complain that the average life expectancy is 40 years, and that there is a high incidence of cancer and asthma.

Less than a year ago, the Environment Ministry carried out a check of the air quality in the area and found high concentrations of pollutants. The test also showed large quantities of poisonous materials that are released during the burning process.