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Israeli authorities coerce Palestinian man to demolish own home in Issawiya

Jan. 17, 2017 12:12 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 17, 2017 2:55 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian from the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya demolished his own home on Tuesday in order to comply with a demolition order from the Israeli Jerusalem municipality.

Homeowner Firas Mahmoud told Ma’an that he had been notified by the Jerusalem municipality that if he didn’t take care of it himself, Israeli authorities would demolish his home themselves and charge Mahmoud 300,000 shekels ($78,518) for the cost of the demolition.

Mahmoud added that he had begun building the 130-square-meter house in the Habayil al-Arab area of Issawiya eight months ago and was about to move in with his family of five.

Issawiya local committee member Muhammad Abu al-Hummus said that Israeli authorities had recently been targeting Habayil al-Arab, taking photographs of the neighborhood and delivering demolition warrants "haphazardly."

Mahmoud is among many Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem who are forced to demolish their own homes in order to avoid paying costly municipality demolition fees.

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality had previously told Ma’an that “self demolitions occur when house owners heed legal notices and court rulings and remove building code violations independently. Specific instances of residents heeding these notices are not verified in real time, therefore we cannot comment on them."

Israeli authorities have ramped up demolition orders in East Jerusalem in the wake of a deadly truck-ramming attack earlier this month, a move which was denounced by Israeli NGO B’Tselem as constituting “collective punishment.”

According to UNOCHA, Israel demolished a record 1,093 structures in the occupied Palestinian territory in 2016, including 190 in East Jerusalem, displacing 1,601 Palestinians.

“These are the highest West Bank demolition and displacement figures at least since OCHA started recording them in 2009,” the UN organization said.

Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in East Jerusalem, though the Jerusalem municipality has claimed that compared to the Jewish population, they receive a disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities, which also see high approval ratings.

However, testimonies collected by the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ) 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, leading to only seven percent of Jerusalem building permits go to Palestinian neighborhoods.

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