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Palestinian family of 13 displaced after being forced to demolish their own home

Feb. 19, 2017 12:25 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 19, 2017 5:27 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian family of 13 was displaced after they were forced to demolish their own home in the Bir Ayoub area of the Silwan neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, in compliance with orders from Israel's Jerusalem municipality.

Hajj Salih Shweiki told Ma'an that his family chose to carry out the demolition themselves to avoid the huge fees imposed when municipality crews perform demolitions.

The municipality would have charged 80,000 shekels (approximately $21,600) for the demolition, according to Shweiki.

Members of the family started to manually demolish the interior of the house on Saturday using sledge hammers and other small tools. The house was built of bricks and corrugated metal sheets.

"I had to choose between two very difficult options: either to demolish myself the home where our children and grandchildren have been brought up for ten years, or to allow the occupation’s bulldozers to demolish the house and all of our belongings without providing us prior warning and forcing us to pay 80,000 shekels," Shweiki said.

He said the demolition had been postponed several times over the past few years, and that a final demolition order was issued recently.

Commenting on an unprecedented surge of Israeli-enforced demolitions of Palestinian structures across the occupied territory and inside Israel itself, Shweiki said that "Israeli occupation authorities have been targeting Silwan in particular, turning a deaf ear to all international laws," he said.

"Where in the world is there a law that displaces a citizen from his own house? Or coerces a citizen to demolish his house with his own hands?"

Fakhri Abu Diab, a spokesman for a local committee aiming to defend Palestinian properties in Silwan, told Ma’an that "Israeli occupation institutions have launched an unprecedented attack against Silwan in the form of land confiscations, demolitions, and other methods, in order to apply pressure on its indigenous residents to coerce them to leave their town that abuts the Old City and Al-Aqsa Mosque, to pave the way for settlers to replace them."

Also on Saturday, another Palestinian family in Silwan demolished their own home, also to avoid paying tens of thousands of shekels following an order from the municipality.

In response to a request for comment, a Jerusalem municipality spokesperson said 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 week, Israeli authorities delivered at least 16 demolition notices to several Palestinian homes where at least 118 individuals reside in the al-Bustan area of Silwan. Jerusalem municipality inspectors also took photos of several Palestinian buildings in al-Bustan, Ein al-Luzah, and Wadi Hilweh areas of Silwan the same day.

Silwan is one of many Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem which have seen an influx of Israeli settlers at the cost of home demolitions and the eviction of Palestinian families.

The area has also come under heightened presence of Israeli military forces in recent months.

Silwan residents -- like most Palestinians in Jerusalem -- have long engaged in efforts to prevent their displacement by the Israeli government, which has aimed to establish a Jewish majority since Israel first illegally occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.
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