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Group: Rise in East Jerusalem home demolitions

Jan. 4, 2011 9:03 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 5, 2011 10:47 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) - The final months of 2010 saw a sharp rise in the number of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, an Israeli civil rights group said on Tuesday.

Ir Amim (City of Peoples), an organization that lobbies for the "viable and equitable" sharing of Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians, said the rise in demolitions was calculated to drive Palestinian residents out of the city.

It said that at least two home demolitions, in the Sheikh Jarrah and Beit Hanina neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, had already occurred since the new year.

"This is a continuation of the sharp rise in home demolitions in east Jerusalem that has been the trend since mid-2010, and more significantly in the last two months of 2010," the group said in a statement.

It documented 74 demolitions in east Jerusalem in 2010, with the monthly figure peaking in December with 17 incidents.

"Ir Amim expresses grave concern for what appears to be a shift in the Jerusalem municipality's policy in east Jerusalem, which simultaneously increases home demolitions while promoting the construction of hundreds of new residential units for Israelis in east Jerusalem," the group said.

The demolition of Palestinian homes and other structures in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is a common phenomenon, with Israel saying the demolitions are only ordered for structures that were built without planning permission.

The Palestinians say it is virtually impossible to get a building permit, particularly for housing in East Jerusalem, and Ir Amim said the Jerusalem demolitions were part of a political policy.

"It is important to emphasize that the issue of home demolitions in Jerusalem is not a neutral enforcement of the law, but rather part of a broad policy that seeks to weaken Palestinian civil society in east Jerusalem and drive them out."

Palestinian group Al-Maqdese for Society Development said it documented 72 demolitions in East Jerusalem in 2010, while the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it recorded 63 demolitions.

In late December, Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, called on Israel to cease demolitions of Palestinian homes immediately.

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

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

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the rest of the world.
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