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East Jerusalem: Israeli demolitions continue

Dec. 30, 2010 12:41 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 31, 2010 5:50 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Eleven structures in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur were demolished by Israeli forces on Wednesday, and several dunums of lands bulldozed.

The demolitions followed court actions determining that the buildings were constructed without permits. In two cases on Saturday, families decided to demolish parts of their own homes when they were handed demolition orders by the Jerusalem municipality earlier in the week.

"The Municipality only takes down illegal buildings when the owners have refused to do so. In Jerusalem, like everywhere else in the world. by law, illegal structures have to be taken down," a municipality spokesman said.

Demolished by force, often with a fine of 50,000 shekels ($14,041), were the following, listed by owner:

Ra’ed As-Sayyad

A 25 square meter brick shed

35 olive trees uprooted

Fence around proprty (demolished for 3rd time)

Wa’el Da’na

Three animal sheds

Several trees uprooted

Na’eem Abu Sbitan

One car two-car garrage

Ahmad Khweis

Seventy olive trees uprooted

Ibrahim Al-Balbesy

Twenty-five olive trees uprooted

Tool shead

Abdulla An-Nabulsi

Two-room barn

Several trees uprooted

Yahya Arafat Ar-Razm

Thirty tons of iron confiscated

According to a statement from Israel's municipality of Jerusalem office, the structures were all "built without permits, without a license and taking over public space in a national park."

Earlier in the week, the family of Mariam I’raq in the nearby East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher was handed a demolition order from the municipality. In order to avoid fines, the family dismantled their home on Friday.

The family of Khalil Ramadan Dabash from Sur Baher also demolished their 160 square meter home, which housed 16 individuals, on Friday. The family lost an appeal over demolition orders at an Israeli court during the week.

"These condemnable acts have a devastating impact," Director of UNRWA Operations West Bank Barbara Shenstone said in a statement at the time.

She said the two families affected opted to destroy their own homes rather than wait for Jerusalem municipality to do so because a municipal demolition would cost them up to 120,000 shekels ($33,389).

"While children around the world are enjoying the holiday season in their homes, these children have suffered the trauma and indignity of watching their homes destroyed in the presence of their parents. It is extremely cruel and distressing."

The week before, according to a report from the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, four homes in the East Jerualem communities of An Nu’man, Ath Thuri, Sur Baher and Ras Al-Amud, owing to lack of Israeli-issued building permits, were demolished by Israeli officials. Thirty people, including 13 children, were displaced as a result.

In 2010, 73 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished in East Jerusalem, compared to 80 in the same period in 2009, displacing 92 people and otherwise affecting over 260.

On 23 December, Maxwell Gaylard, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, offered his own condemnation after visiting the site of a home that had been demolished 24 hours earlier.

"The destruction of this home and the displacement of these people raises serious concerns with regard to Israel's obligations under international law," he said.

"These actions have a severe social and economic impact on the lives and welfare of Palestinians and increase their dependence on humanitarian assistance," he added.

"The government of Israel must take immediate steps to cease demolitions and evictions in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem."

Israel says it demolishes only homes that have been built without a permit, but Palestinians say it is virtually impossible to secure Israeli permission to build in East Jerusalem.

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