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Israeli bulldozers return to Beit Hanina to demolish Palestinian building

Feb. 8, 2017 10:27 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 8, 2017 4:41 P.M.)
Israeli bulldozers demolish Palestinian-owned building in Beit Hanina
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- For the second day in a row on Wednesday morning, Israeli bulldozers demolished a Palestinian-owned building that was under construction in Beit Hanina in occupied East Jerusalem, under the pretext that the building lacked the nearly impossible to obtain building licenses required by Israeli authorities.

Witnesses told Ma’an via telephone that Israeli bulldozers raided the Tal al-Foul area of Beit Hanina, surrounded the building, and began razing it to the ground.

Local sources added that construction of the building began several years ago, but was stopped upon an order from Israel's Jerusalem municipality.

A spokesperson for the municipality confirmed the demoltion to Ma'an.

Palestinian news outlet the al-Quds Network published a video documenting the demolition.

Just a day prior, Jerusalem municipality bulldozers and Israeli police surrounded another under construction building in Beit Hanina, and hours later, a spokesperson for the municipality told Ma'an via email that court orders to dismantle the structure had been “enforced."

Also on Tuesday, Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank demolished Palestinian structures in the northern Jordan Valley in two separate incidents, amid a surge in demolitions of Palestinian structures in the occupied territory as well as inside Israel that have targeted Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, Israel's discriminatory policies on planning and construction that allocate enormous budgets for Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem have come at the expense of development for Palestinian communities since Israel illegally annexed the territory in 1967.

The situation has forced many Palestinians to build homes without obtaining permits, while the Jerusalem municipality enforces building laws on Palestinians much more stringently than on the Jewish population -- even though the number of violations is much higher in the Jewish neighborhoods according to B’Tselem.

As four out of five of Palestinians in East Jerusalem live under the poverty line, applying for these permits is nearly impossible. Application fees can reach up to 300,000 shekels ($79,180), according to ARIJ. As a result, only 7 percent of Jerusalem building permits go to Palestinian neighborhoods.

In recent months, Israeli authorities have stepped up issuing demolition warrants for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, particularly after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat warned that the demolition of the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona in the occupied West Bank would be met with the mass demolition of Palestinian homes lacking the building permits.

Amona was evacuated and dismantled by an Israeli Supreme Court order last week.

Two Palestinian homes were demolished in Beit Hanina last month, and more than 100 Palestinian homes have been destroyed in the occupied Palestinian territory since the beginning of the year, including 14 in occupied East Jerusalem, according to United Nations documentation.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also pledged to lift all restrictions on settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem, while more than 6,000 housing units have been approved for construction in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the beginning of 2017.

Furthermore, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed into law the contested outpost “Regularization bill” late Monday night, granting official Israeli governmental recognition to more than a dozen illegal settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank established on private Palestinian lands.

In addition to land seizures and home demolitions, the crackdown on Palestinian Jerusalemites has also seen the escalation of violent night raids by Israeli police, carried out in breach of protocol and without proper search warrants.

During a predawn detention raid Monday that targeted the families of Palestinians who were either slain or incarcerated after carrying out or allegedly carrying out attacks, one family’s testimony described violent assaults by masked police officers.

The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.
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