BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces on Wednesday demolished two Palestinian-owned homes in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina in occupied East Jerusalem, according to a statement by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
According to statements released on the PLO’s Twitter account, Israeli forces demolished a Palestinian home in Beit Hanina, before making their way to demolish another home in the same neighborhood.
Amer Ubeido, the owner of the second home, told Ma’an that his family had tried to get the Israeli magistrate and central courts to postpone the demolition of the house where they had lived for 16 years since early Wednesday morning, in vain.
Ubeido said that the central court had approved a postponement in the afternoon on the condition that his family pay a 50,000-shekel ($12,948) fine within half an hour. Ubeido added that he rushed to obtain the large sum of money, only to find out upon reaching the court that the demolition was under way.
He added that the Israeli Jerusalem municipality had previously ordered him to pay a 42,000-shekel ($10,876) fine for illegal construction, and that he had spared no efforts to try and obtain a permit, but that the municipality had insisted on the demolition.
A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Finance told Ma’an that “the structure was built without permission on public property intended to build a school to benefit the residents of Beit Hanina,” adding that a district court judge had ruled that the homeowner should demolish their own home.
“Since the house owner refused to do so or alternatively pay a guarantee to perform demolition, the building was destroyed by the state and according to law,” the spokesperson added..
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, including East Jerusalem, saw an unprecedented surge last year, with Israeli authorities demolishing at least 1,081 Palestinian structures as of Dec. 26, displacing at least 1,587 Palestinians, including 248 in East Jerusalem, according to UN documentation.