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Israeli forces demolish homes in Jerusalem-area Bedouin neighborhood

Jan. 21, 2016 11:33 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 22, 2016 1:27 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli bulldozers demolished three housing structures belonging to Palestinian Bedouins in Jerusalem district on Thursday, displacing 17 Palestinians, half of them children.

Israeli bulldozers escorted by Israeli forces raided and surrounded the Jabal al-Baba neighborhood of the village of al-Eizariya, forcibly evacuated residents, and demolished the houses.

Jabal al-Baba representative Atallah Mazaraa told Ma'an that the demolition was sudden and without prior notice, adding that an Israeli court had frozen all demolition orders in the area around a year ago.

Mazaraa said that he and the residents were held at gunpoint for hours while the demolition took place, causing fear and panic among the children present.

Mazaraa said the three demolished homes belonged to Hamda Muhammad Odeh Abu Kutaiba, her son, Ali Abu Kutaiba, and Ghassan Jahalin. The families' furniture and possessions were still inside when the housing structures were destroyed.

Ali Abu Kutaiba and Jahalin had been living with their families in mobile homes donated by the European Union.

Mazaraa said the EU-donated structures could have easily been taken apart instead of demolished.

Israeli forces also leveled the lands on which the houses were standing in order to prevent any attempts at reconstruction, he added.

COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry unit in charge of civil administration in the Palestinian territories, only confirmed the demolition of two structures, saying in a statement that "enforcement steps were taken against two illegal constructions which were built without a permit."

The statement added that the demolitions were carried out "after completing the supervision process and issuing the relevant factors."

Mazaraa said the whole Jabal al-Baba area, which counts some 300 people, was being threatened with demolition.

Jabal al-Baba is one of several Bedouin villages facing repeated demolitions due to plans by Israeli authorities to build thousands of homes for Jewish-only settlements in the E1 corridor.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to suspend work on the housing units in 2013, settlement watchdog Peace Now reported last week that the Ministry of Housing has "quietly" continued planning 8,372 homes in the corridor.

Settlement construction in E1 would effectively divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state -- as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict -- almost impossible.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah slammed the displacement of Palestinian Bedouin communities near Jerusalem in a press release on Wednesday, saying that "Israel's systematic violation of international laws is no longer acceptable by the international community.”

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