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Israeli authorities coerce Palestinian family into demolishing own homes in two hours

July 3, 2017 5:43 P.M. (Updated: July 4, 2017 9:46 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities ordered that two homes in occupied East Jerusalem be demolished on Monday morning, forcing the Palestinian homeowner to tear them down himself in the span of two hours to avoid incurring the exorbitant costs of a demolition carried out by the Israeli Jerusalem municipality.

Mahmoud Fawaqa told Ma’an that Jerusalem municipality crews escorted by Israeli forces stormed the area of Umm al-Lassun in the town of Sur Bahir on Monday to tell him to demolish the two homes himself within two hours, lest Israeli authorities take the matter into their own hands and charge him 80,000 shekels ($22,850) for it.

Fawaqa said that one of his sons had to be hospitalized for severe fatigue after rushing to carry out the demolition within such a short time span, which also came amid a scorching heat wave in the region.

He added that one of the homes, in which a family of six was residing, had been built five years earlier, whereas construction for the second house had only recently been completed.

Fawaqa said that he had tried to obtain a construction license from the Jerusalem municipality, but that he was denied "under the pretext that the land (on which he built) was designated a green area.”

"It is very bitter and very difficult for someone to demolish with his own hands a house he built and lived in for years," he added.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Jerusalem municipality told Ma'an that they were not familiar with the incident.

The Jerusalem municipality has claimed that compared to the Jewish population, it receives a disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities, which see high approval rates.

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.

Israeli authorities have stepped up issuing demolition warrants for Palestinians in East Jerusalem in recent months, particularly after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat threatened 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 nearly impossible to obtain Israeli-issued building permits.

According to UN documentation, as June 19, 74 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished by Israel in East Jerusalem since the beginning of the year, displacing at least 158 Palestinians. A total of 190 Palestinian buildings were demolished in East Jerusalem in 2016.

The Sur Bahir demolitions come as Israeli authorities are set to discuss the advancement of nearly 1,800 housing units for illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, which would lead to the expulsion of five Palestinian families from their homes in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
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