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Israeli authorities demolish Palestinian home in al-Walaja

May 10, 2016 8:53 P.M. (Updated: May 11, 2016 1:34 P.M.)
al-Walaja (Photo Credit: UNWRA)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces demolished a Palestinian home on Tuesday morning in the southern occupied West Bank village of al-Walaja, amid nine standing demolition orders that have been issued by Israeli authorities in the village this week, and a mass escalation in demolitions across the occupied Palestinian territory this year.

Israeli forces stormed the village early Tuesday to demolish the structure, al-Walaja village council head Abd al-Rahman Abu al-Teen said during a press briefing later that morning, standing on the site of another Palestinian home that had been demolished in the village three weeks prior.

The still-under construction structure had reportedly been issued a stop construction notice days before for not having applied for proper Israeli permits.

The press briefing was organized by the PLO ahead of the 68th anniversary of the Nakba -- or “catastrophe” -- that forcibly displaced some 800,000 Palestinians during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

“This village has experienced the suffering of several nakbas,” Abu al-Teen said, adding that many Palestinian families in al-Walaja were currently fighting impending demolition orders in Israeli courts and a total of at least 50 homes had already been destroyed in the village, several more than once.

In mid-April, Israeli forces demolished three Palestinian homes still under construction in al-Walaja.

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 nearly 600 structures in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem by Israeli authorities, according to UN figures.

The majority have been carried out in Area C -- under full jurisdiction of the Israeli military -- where nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally.

On April 8, an estimated 124 Palestinians were displaced in a single day from nine different communities.

Residents of al-Walaja, where Tuesday’s demolition took place, have lost over three-quarters of their land since Israel was established in 1948, when most of the village’s residents became refugees. During Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967, 50 percent of al-Walaja’s lands were annexed to the Jerusalem municipality.

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.

Israel’s checkpoints and separation wall has left a single entrance to al-Walaja; “If and when the wall is completed,” Abu al-Teen said, “it will turn the village into a prison.”

Lily Leach contributed reporting from Bethlehem.
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