JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces raided the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya on Wednesday and destroyed iron gates leading to Palestinian commercial properties and farms, while delivering demolition and evacuation notices for a number of structures.
Member of a local follow-up committee Muhammad Abu al-Hummus told Ma’an that dozens of Israeli soldiers, escorted by bulldozers and municipality crews, raided the eastern area of the neighborhood before destroying the gates. He added that five gates, leading to a car wash and four Palestinian farms, were destroyed and confiscated.
The gates belonged to the Abu Riyaleh, Dari, Mustafa, Dkeik, and Abu Sneineh families, according to Abu al-Hummus. He added that the families were not given any prior notice that Israeli forces would be targeting their properties.
Four evacuation and demolition notices were also placed on four other structures -- a car shop, car wash, and near Palestinian farms.
A spokesperson for Israel's Jerusalem municipality told Ma'an that on Wednesday morning, "the municipality, in collaboration with the Veterinary Service Department, the Finance and Interior Ministries, and the border police, dismantled four structures, gates, and fences that were being illegally used to house animals," adding that "during routine rounds, the city also distributed a number of injunctions for structures in the area."
Abu al-Hummus said during a protest last month against Israeli demolitions in the neighborhood that Israeli authorities had escalated their demolition policies in East Jerusalem since the beginning of 2017. Abu al-Hummus also noted that there were 34 Israeli-issued demolition orders on homes in Issawiya, while tens of cases were still open in Israeli courts for residents to gain permits for construction, forcing residents to pay large fines to prevent demolitions of the properties while they were fighting for permits in court.
Muhamamd Dari, a local figure in the community, told Ma’an at the time that the Israeli municipality had rejected a construction blueprint presented by residents of Issawiya and instead issued a blueprint that “doesn’t adhere to the construction needs of the 22,000 residents in the neighborhood.”
He also noted at the time that the Israeli municipality has continued to confiscate Issawiya’s land for what it has said was for the “public interest.”
According to UN documentation, as of April 3, 47 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished by Israel in East Jerusalem since the beginning of the year, displacing at least 107 Palestinians. A total of 190 Palestinian buildings were demolished in East Jerusalem in 2016.
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 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 being allocated to Palestinian neighborhoods.
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.
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 home demolitions.