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Israeli forces carry out spate of demolitions in Bethlehem, Hebron, Jerusalem

Nov. 15, 2016 7:01 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 16, 2016 1:55 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces demolished several Palestinian structures, delivered demolition notices and detained a Palestinian man during demolition raids in the occupied West Bank's Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron districts on Tuesday, locals told Ma’an.

Bethlehem district

Hassan Breijiya, a representative of the local anti-wall and settlement committee in Bethlehem’s Cremisan Valley, told Ma’an that Israeli forces demolished a “residential cave” in the Cremisan area, northwest of the town of Beit Jala.

Breijiya said that Israeli forces raided and demolished the cave, and detained owner Nasri Abd al-Rabbo for the duration of the demolition.

Breijiya added that Abd al-Rabbo and his family had been living in the residential cave for years “in an attempt to prevent Israel to take over his land for purposes related to Israeli settlement activity.”

Local activist Muhammad Ayyad Awad added that Israeli forces issued a stop-work order to Issa Ibrahim Awad from Bethlehem, who owns nine dunams of land in the district, ordering him to stop working in his land.

Awad had been using a bulldozer to carry out amendment works on his land in order to use it for agricultural purposes.

Israeli forces gave him until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to leave his land or they would confiscate the bulldozer he had been using.

According to the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ), Beit Jala is divided into areas A, B, and C, with nearly 6,000 dunams (65.4 percent of the total area of the city), classified as Area C, an area under full Israeli military control.

In Area C, Palestinians are prevented from constructing or farming on lands that they own unless they obtain permission from the Israeli civilian administration, which is extremely difficult to achieve.

According to ARIJ, the majority of lands in Area C are agricultural lands and open spaces which constitute the major source of income for the city residents of Beit Jala.

Hebron district

In the Hebron district, Israeli forces detained Sheikh Suleiman al-Hathalin, 65, and demolished a residential barracks and a tent, without previous notice, during a raid on the village of Um al-Kher al-Faqir in the south of Hebron. It remained unclear if the structures that were demolished belonged to al-Hathalin.

Israeli forces also raided the southern part of the village of Beit Ummar in the northwestern Hebron district, and delivered demolition notices to two Palestinian houses, Awad told Ma’an.

Awad said that Israeli forces delivered demolition notices to Muhammad Said Attiya Awad for his 170 square meters one story house, and to Abd al-Rahman Sabri Abd al-Fatah Arar for his 150-square-meter one-story house. Awad noted that both homes were still under construction.

A spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, did not comment on the demolitions in Bethlehem, but did confirm that "an enforcement" was carried out against two "illegal structures" in Umm al-Kher, "after all the necessary warrants were approved."

The spokesperson also confirmed that warrants were issued "against two illegal structures and the connected property in the Beit Ummar and Halhul area."

Jerusalem district

Israeli bulldozers demolished the foundation of a mosque in the village of Sur Bahir in the Jerusalem district, just a few hours after several agricultural structures were demolished in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan and Jabal al-Mukabbir.

Locals told Ma'an that Israeli bulldozers, escorted by Israeli forces, raided the village and began demolishing the foundations of the mosque, which residents had begun building a few months earlier.

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality, Rachel Greenspan, confirmed to Ma'an that municipal workers had "dismantled an illegally installed concrete floor in Sur Bahir," adding that the municipality would "continue to enforce the law equally, in all parts of the city, preserving public areas and ensuring accessibility for the benefit of all residents."

Meanwhile, on Monday, nine Palestinian households were left without a steady income in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina when they were forced to demolish their own commercial stores.

On Sunday, 12 Palestinians were left homeless when they were forced to demolish their apartments in Jabal al-Mukabbir, in accordance with a demolition order that claimed the apartments lacked proper permits.

Demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have seen an unprecedented surge this year, 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.

According to the UN, the overall rate of Israeli demolitions since 2015 has exceeded every year since the UN began monitoring the practice in 2009.

A large number of Israeli demolitions are carried out due to Palestinian homeowners not obtaining Israeli-issued building permits, though Palestinians are rarely granted permits by Israeli authorities to build, forcing many to build illegally.

In occupied East Jerusalem, though Israel's Jerusalem municipality has said that it receives a disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities compared to the Jewish population, and that Palestinian applications "see high approval ratings," procedures to apply for Israeli-issued building permits are lengthy, sometimes lasting for several years, while the application costs can 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 these permits is nearly impossible. As a result, only 7 percent of Jerusalem building permits go to Palestinian neighborhoods.

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