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Israel to demolish 5 buildings, 138 apartments, in Jerusalem-area town

Oct. 29, 2017 1:38 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 30, 2017 7:46 P.M.)
Kafr Aqab (File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality is reportedly planning to demolish five buildings in the Palestinian Jerusalem-area town of Kafr Aqab, according to a Saturday report from Israeli news daily Haaretz.

Haaretz reported that the five buildings hold a total of 138 apartments, 20 of which are occupied, and the rest of which have been sold to Palestinian families.

Last week, Israel’s district court in Jerusalem rejected an appeal against the demolition from Kafr Aqab’s residents, and permitted Israeli authorities to demolish the “illegally-built” structures immediately.

Kafr Aqab, while located on the occupied West Bank side of Israel’s illegal separation wall, is still considered as part of Israel’s Jerusalem municipality.

According to Haaretz, since the construction of the wall, residents in the town were forced to build without Israeli-issued construction permits, as all of their applications were denied.

Haaretz quoted Munir Zagheir, chairman of the Kafr Aqab Residents Committee, as saying that since 2001, Israel has issued zero building permits in the town.

“I have 52,000 residents living in such homes and the municipality has looked away. These are 138 families who put shekel after shekel together, who sold their jewelry so they could build. They bought because they knew there are no demolitions here and saw that the city did nothing,” Zagheir told Haaretz.

The demolition is allegedly aimed at clearing land to pave a public road that will connect a nearby neighborhood with Israel’s Qalandiya military checkpoint.

While Israel’s Jerusalem municipality did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Haaretz quoted a municipality spokesperson as saying that “the claim of unfairness is out of place; The purpose of the road is to make it easier for tens of thousands of people and thus the construction of the road for the benefit of all the residents is fair and necessary.”

Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in Area C -- the Israeli controlled section of the West Bank-- and occupied 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.

For Jewish Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem’s illegal settlements, the planning, marketing, development, and infrastructure are funded and executed by the Israeli government. By contrast, in Palestinian neighborhoods, all the burden falls on individual families to contend with a lengthy permit application that can last several years and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

According to Daniel Seidemann of the NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem, “Since 1967, the Government of Israel has directly engaged in the construction of 55,000 units for Israelis in East Jerusalem; in contrast, fewer than 600 units have been built for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the last of which were built 40 years ago. So much for (Jerusalem Mayor Nir) Barkat’s claim ‘we build for everyone.’”

According to United Nations documentation, 211 Palestinians were displaced and 119 buildings have been demolished in East Jerusalem since the beginning of the year as of Oct. 23. Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem reached a record high in 2016.

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