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Palestinian family coerced to tear down their roof in Beit Hanina

March 25, 2017 5:16 P.M. (Updated: March 28, 2017 4:36 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem tore down the roof of his own house on Saturday, in compliance with an order from Israel's Jerusalem municipality that said the roof was constructed without the required building license.

Yousif Bukhtan told Ma'an that the walls of his 60-square-meter house had been built several years ago, and that the roof was added three years ago.

He said that the Jerusalem municipality had warned that if he didn't demolish the roof by the end of March, he would be forced to pay an exorbitant fine typically imposed by Israeli authorities when municipality crews carry out demolitions.

In Bukhtan's case, if he had refused to carry out the demolition himself, the municipality's crews would have likely razed the entire house to the ground, he said.

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."

Last month, seven Palestinians, including five children, were left homeless as a result of an Israeli-enforced demolition in Beit Hanina, when Israeli forces assaulted the owner at gunpoint, according to the family.

The owner, Luay Abu Rmouz, said at the time he could not bring himself to demolish the house himself, which he built seven years ago, having payed a total of 80,000 shekels (approximately $21,572) in fines to the municipality over the years while trying to legalize his house.

"It is difficult for me to demolish my own house with my own hands when I built it myself," he told Ma'an. "I was shocked by the way they (Israeli authorities) raided my home and dealt with the family before carrying out the demolition.”

Israeli daily Haaretz reported last month that Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem have been subjected to a dramatic increase in home demolitions since the beginning of 2017, with the Israeli government lifting restrictions on the demolition of Palestinian homes, allegedly linked to the election of US President Donald Trump.

According to UN documentation, as of March 20, 42 Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem had been demolished since the beginning of the year, displacing at least 80 Palestinians. In 2016, 190 Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem were demolished, leaving an estimated 254 Palestinians forcibly displaced, according to the UN.
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