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Israeli forces demolish structures in Silwan, Beit Hanina neighborhoods of Jerusalem

July 19, 2016 3:53 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 13, 2016 2:52 P.M.)
Demolition in Beit Hanina on July 19, 2016. (Photo courtesy of local sources)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli bulldozers escorted by Jerusalem municipality inspectors and Israeli police stormed two Jerusalem-area Palestinian neighborhoods of Silwan and Beit Hanina on Tuesday morning and demolished at least seven structures for lacking the required Israeli-issued permits.

In Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, bulldozers demolished several structures belonging to the Abu al-Hamam and Abu Tayih families.

One of the owners, Arafat Abu al-Hamam, told Ma’an that Israeli forces demolished a single-room house measuring 36 square meters and three stores measuring 75 square meters each. The structures, he said, were built eight years ago.

Israeli bulldozers also demolished a garage and small car wash facility belonging to the Abu Tayih family. The structures measured 30 square meters.

According to Palestinian news site Quds Press, Abu al-Hamam, a father of eight, became unemployed along with two other workers as a result of the demolitions. Footage recorded by Quds Press after the demolition showed a child searching through the rubble for her toys.

Demolition in Silwan on July 19, 2016. (MaanImages)

Demolition in Silwan on July 19, 2016. (MaanImages)

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality told Ma'an that the demolition orders for the structures in Silwan were issued in 2011.

While Quds Press initially reported that Israeli police carried out the demolitions in Silwan without giving prior notice or issuing a demolition order, the municipality said: "After a five-year-long appeals process, in which the business owners were active participants, the court ruled to uphold the demolition order. No permit applications were filed, nor were any such applications filed retroactively during the five years of court proceedings."

Meanwhile, in the Beit Hanina neighborhood, Israeli forces closed the road to the Tal al-Foul area before bulldozers under military escort demolished a house under construction there.

The owner, Sharhabil Alqam, told Ma’an he started building the house two months ago and was planning to move into the new house with his wife and seven children. The house measured 120 square meters.

The Jerusalem Municipality spokesperson told Ma'an that the Beit Hanina structure was erected without Israeli-issued permits, and that "no such permits were ever filed or requested. Shortly after construction began about forty-five days ago, builders were given due notice and the option to appeal, which they did not exercise."

Demolition in Beit Hanina on July 19, 2016. (Photo courtesy of local sources)

Quds Press also reported that Israeli authorities on Tuesday forced a Palestinian to demolish his house in the Ein al-Louz area of Silwan. Many Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem are forced to demolish their own homes in order to avoid paying the high municipality fees to carry out the demolitions.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory also reported that demolitions occurred in Silwan and Beit Hanina on Tuesday, without providing further details.

While Palestinians frequently take their cases to Israeli courts after Israeli land confiscation and home demolition notices are ordered, they seldom win their cases in courts.

The legal process can also be timely and too expensive for Palestinian residents to afford without the aid of rights organizations.

Thirty-three percent of all Palestinian homes in the occupied city lack Israeli-issued building permits, potentially placing at least 93,100 residents at risk of displacement, the United Nations reported in 2012.

Only 14 percent of East Jerusalem land is zoned for Palestinian residential construction, while one-third of Palestinian land has been confiscated since 1967 to build illegal Jewish-only settlements, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Silwan is one of many Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem that is seeing an influx of Israeli settlers at the cost of home demolitions and the eviction of Palestinian families.

Last year, the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department slammed what it termed Israel's "systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians" in Silwan.

The department said that Israeli policies "in Silwan aim not only to alter the historic character of the area and to consolidate Israeli control over the Old City of Jerusalem ... but also contribute to the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem."

At least 47 Palestinian homes were demolished in occupied East Jerusalem in 2015, according to Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

Nearly 579 homes have been destroyed in the city over the last twelve years, leaving 2,218 Palestinians homeless in total, the group reported.
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