JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities demolished three Palestinian-owned structures in the neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem Tuesday morning
, according to the owners.
Alaa Shweiki told Ma'an that bulldozers arrived on his property early Tuesday morning under armed military protection.
The bulldozers then demolished a structure roofed with steel tubes and tin sheets that Shweiki used as a horse stable. He highlighted that the same structures had already been demolished in November.
Shweiki added that Israeli forces confiscated one of his horses, and that bulldozers leveled some of his land and tore down fences and dry-stone walls.
In the Karm al-Sheikh area of Silwan, Israeli forces demolished two houses under construction whose owners had previously demolished them on Saturday
in compliance with an Israeli court order.
Homeowners Said al-Abbasi and his brother Nasser told Ma'an that they began the demolition of their homes on Saturday -- a common practice for Jerusalem residents subjected to demolition orders so as not to incur a demolition fee from the Israeli Jerusalem municipality -- but were “surprised” on Tuesday morning to find forces raiding the area.
The Israeli bulldozers completely demolished the two homes, according to the brothers.
A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Tuesday demolitions.
Said al-Abbasi, told Ma’an on Saturday that the homes were built two-and-a-half years ago. However, before construction could be completed, the Jerusalem municipality delivered demolition orders for the homes.
During the court hearings appealing the order, the al-Abbasi brothers, who are the fathers of 12 children combined, were forced to close the construction site with concrete until all legal proceedings had concluded.
Said al-Abbasi told Ma’an that the Jerusalem municipality had threatened to imprison the two brothers if they tried to resume construction at the site.
According to the brothers, they had attempted to obtain a license from the Jerusalem municipality over the past two years, but all their efforts were rejected. An Israeli court ruled in October that the houses must be demolished for lacking Israeli-issued building permits and the fact that the homes were being built on land the municipality had declared an “open space reserve.”
The brothers eventually chose to self-demolish their homes to avoid costly fees charged by the municipality if it was to carry out the demolition.
Though the Israeli Jerusalem municipality has said it receives a disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem 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.
Demolitions of Palestinian structures and homes 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 well exceeding the total number of demolitions carried out in all of 2015.
At least 1,569 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.