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Israeli forces demolish residential buildings in occupied East Jerusalem neighborhoods

Nov. 8, 2016 12:16 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 8, 2016 7:00 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities Tuesday morning demolished two residential buildings in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Wadi Joz and Issawiya for building without Israeli-issued licenses.

Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces escorted two excavators to the Wadi Joz neighborhood at 4 a.m. Israeli soldiers were also deployed throughout the alleys of the neighborhood, before surrounding a three-story building as Israeli excavators tore it down.

According to locals, the building consisted of stores on the ground floor, apartments on the second, while the third floor was still under construction.

Local sources highlighted that the stores on the first floor contained food supplies belonging to Palestinian families, adding that Israeli forces demolished the stores without allowing families to remove their supplies.

The demolition occurred after the building was constructed without Israeli-issued building permits, locals said, much like most of East Jerusalem, as the process to obtain the permits is often time-consuming and expensive.

After Israeli forces completed the demolition in Wadi Joz, they headed to the neighborhood of al-Issawiya and demolished a residential building, claiming it was lacking Israeli-issued building permits, according to locals.

Member of a local committee in Issawiya, Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, told Ma'an that the building was a two-story building, still under construction.

According to Abu al-Hummus, the first floor consisted of stores, while the second served as a residential floor.

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality told Ma'an that the "illegally constructed structure" Wadi Joz was "built on land designated for public open space, after stop-work orders were not heeded," and added that the municipality had also dismantled an "illegally constructed commercial structure" in Issawiya that was "built on land designated for a road for the benefit of the local community."

"The Municipality will continue to enforce the law equally, in all parts of the city, preserving public areas and ensuring accessibility for the benefit of all residents," the spokesperson added.

Demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have seen an unprecedented surge in recent months, with the number of structures demolished in the first half of 2016 already well exceeding the total number of demolitions carried out in all of 2015.

More than 1,383 Palestinians have been displaced since the beginning of 2016 as a result of demolitions in the occupied territory, compared to 688 Palestinians displaced over the entirety of 2015, according to UN documentation.

Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in Area C -- the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli security and civilian control -- and East Jerusalem, though the Israel's Jerusalem municipality has claimed that compared to the Jewish population, they receive a "disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities," which they boasted "see high approval ratings."

However, testimonies collected by the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ) in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan found that the procedures to apply for Israeli-issued building permits were lengthy, sometimes lasting for several years, while the application costs could reach up to 300,000 shekels ($79,180).

As four out of five of Palestinians in East Jerusalem live under the poverty line, applying for costly building permits is nearly impossible, and only seven percent of Jerusalem building permits go to Palestinian neighborhoods.
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