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Israel demolishes Palestinian home in East Jerusalem for 6th time in 10 years

Aug. 3, 2016 3:32 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 4, 2016 6:08 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli bulldozers on Wednesday demolished a Palestinian family's home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina -- the sixth time since the family began seeking an Israeli-issued building license more than a decade ago -- amid a massive escalation of demolitions in the city over recent weeks.

The owner of the house, Izz al-Din Abu Nijma,  told the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Jerusalem that the demolition “caught him by surprise” and occurred without prior notice. 

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality told Ma'an they were not involved in the demolition. According to the center, Israel's Civil Administration forces demolished the structure. 

Abu Nijma has been struggling to obtain a permit to build a house for his family since 1995, he told the center on Wednesday.

Israeli authorities have rejected all of Abu Nijma’s attempts to legalize his property, forcing him to build a house without a permit for the first time in 1995 and five times since, with Israeli forces demolishing it every time.

Abu Nijma said that after Israeli forces most recently demolished his house in 2014, the Norwegian government provided him and his family of four with a mobile home, and Abu Nijma installed wheels below the trailer’s foundation in hopes that it would not be destroyed, as Israeli laws prohibit the demolition of any establishment placed on wheels as it doesn’t require a building permit, according to the center.

“We were shocked today when Israeli forces raided the trailer,” he said.

Israeli authorities first removed furniture from the home before bulldozers proceeded to destroy the structure.

Israel has also come under condemnation over repeated demolitions of internationally-funded structures.

Meanwhile, initial reports from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Israeli forces also carried out demolitions in the occupied West Bank village of al-Nabi Samwil in the Jerusalem district.

Just a day prior, Israeli bulldozers demolished a car dealer’s office and two shipping containers in the East Jerusalem village of Sur Bahir, while a Palestinian man in Silwan demolished his own home following an Israeli order.

Israeli forces have sharply escalated demolitions of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem built without Israeli-issued permits over the month of July, a policy which has continued into August.

In less than 24 hours hours last week, 30 Palestinian families were left homeless after Israel destroyed homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Issawiya and Ras al-Amoud, and in the village of Qalandiya in the West Bank district of Jerusalem.

According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, over the month of July, Israeli forces demolished 25 constructions, four of which were carried out by the owners to avoid the expensive fines imposed by the municipality if its own employees demolish the structures.

The structures included seven family homes -- six of which were under construction -- three residential rooms, four warehouses, two walls, four graves, one trailer, and five commercial structures.

Ten of the demolished construction occurred in Silwan, one in Beit Hanina, four in Issawiya, four in Jabal Mukabbir, one in Sheikh Jarrah, one in the Atarot industrial park, and the Islamic graves in the 1,400-year-old Bab al-Rahma cemetery outside the Old City.

As of the end of July, Israel destroyed more than 90 Palestinian properties in occupied East Jerusalem since the start of 2016, which already exceeded the number of those destroyed in all of 2015, at 78 total structures, according to UN documentation.

Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, although 550,000 Jewish settlers are more easily given building permits and allowed to expand their homes and properties.

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, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) says.

Although Palestinians in East Jerusalem live within territory Israel has unilaterally annexed, they lack citizenship rights and are instead classified only as "residents" whose permits can be revoked if they move away from the city for more than a few years.

More than 14,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have had their permits revoked since 1967, denying them the ability to ever return to their homes.

In a statement on Thursday, US State Department spokesperson John Kirby condemned Israel’s recent announcement of plans for 323 additional illegal settlement units in East Jerusalem, also denouncing the recent wave of demolitions in the occupied city.

“This is part of an ongoing process of land seizures, settlement expansion, legalizations of outposts, and denial of Palestinian development that risk entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict,” he said.

“We remain troubled that Israel continues this pattern of provocative and counterproductive action, which raises serious questions about Israel's ultimate commitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”
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