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Israeli forces demolish old buildings near Bethlehem

Dec. 13, 2011 10:30 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 14, 2011 12:32 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli bulldozers demolished on Tuesday morning three old buildings on the outskirts of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, known as Wadi al-Makhrour, after claiming they were built on Israeli land.

The mayor of Beit Jala, Raji Zeidan, said the buildings were recently refurbished. The buildings, according to Zeidan, belong to Fuad Qasasfa, Khadir Salamah, and Abed Audah.

He also highlighted that several landowners in the area recently received warnings from the Israeli authorities warning them that reclamation of land is prohibited.

On Monday, the parish priest for Beit Jala, Ibrahim Shomali, said the situation for residents of Beit Jala, which is predominantly Christian, was deteriorating fast due to Israeli measures.

"The situation of our Christian community is not a good situation," he said.

"Nobody is hearing us except him (Jesus); he can hear, he can help, he can hope and he can change the minds of the political leaders in Israel to give us what we need and what is just for our people and our country."

Shomali was speaking to reporters about Israel's plans to confiscate land belonging to the Cremisan vineyard to make way for its wall.

The owners are fighting the takeover in Israeli courts. "For us, we don't believe it will have an effect because they do what they do for the good of their country, not the good of peace or the Palestinian people.

"But we can't go to other places, this is the only choice we have."

Israel has stepped up its demolitions of Palestinian property in occupied land this year, razing double the number of homes and water wells from 2010, human rights groups said Tuesday.

The statement endorsed by 20 organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch further said settler violence against Palestinians had risen in 2011 and that Israel had sped up its expansion of settler enclaves.

They urged members of the Middle East peacemaking "Quartet" -- the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- to put pressure on Israel to "reverse its settlement policies and freeze all demolitions that violate international law".
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