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Israel destroys 3 homes, public park amid mass demolition campaign

April 12, 2016 10:54 A.M. (Updated: April 12, 2016 6:22 P.M.)
Al-Walaja (Photo Credit: UNWRA)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Tuesday demolished three Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank village of al-Walaja and a children’s park near Nablus amid a mass escalation in demolitions across the occupied area this year.

A PA official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas, told Ma’an that Israeli bulldozers razed a children’s park in Zaatara south of Nablus.

The Israeli authorities gave no prior notice before demolishing the park, which was built last year with around $60,000 donated by Belgium via the Municipal Developing and Lending Fund, Daghlas said.

Locals told Ma’an that bulldozers escorted by Israeli military forces also raided the Ein al-Jweizeh area in northern al-Walaja near Bethlehem, demolishing three homes that were still under construction.

The homeowners -- al-Walaja residents Maher Abu Khyara, Issa Qintar and Obeida al-Muhtasib -- were reportedly told that the demolitions were carried out due to lack of proper building permits.

Locals said Israeli military forces had raided the village several days prior to take photos of a number of homes and deliver demolition orders to their owners.

A spokesperson for Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) had no information on the demolitions, and the Israeli army told Ma'an they were looking into the reports.

The demolitions mark the most recent to take place amid an intensified demolition campaign on Palestinian homes and structures across the occupied Palestinian territory this year.

Over 800 Palestinians have now been displaced since the start of 2016 due to the demolition of more than 500 structures in the occupied West Bank by the Israeli authorities, according to UN figures.

The majority have been carried out in Area C -- under full jurisdiction of the Israeli military -- where nearly 100 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits are denied by the Israeli authorities.

Last week an estimated 124 Palestinians were displaced in a single day from nine different communities, including the village of Khirbet Tana which has been destroyed four times over since the start of the year.

Residents of al-Walaja where Tuesday’s demolitions took place have lost over three-quarters of their land since Israel was established in 1948.

Israel’s separation wall encircles al-Walaja, and swathes of land have been reappropriated by the Israeli government for the construction and expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements of Gilo, Har Gilo, and Givat Yael. The government has also planned to confiscate hundreds of acres from al-Walaja for the establishment of a national park.

The record-high number demolitions this year comes as the Palestinian Authority is expected to present a draft resolution condemning Israeli settlements to the UN Security Council in New York in two weeks.

Despite repeated condemnations by the international community, Israel has come under little actual pressure to halt its settlement program, land seizures, or the forced displacement of Palestinian communities.
Israeli demolition of playground in Zaatara
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