Israeli army demolishes Palestinian homes near Jerusalem News -

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Israeli forces early on Monday (22 July 2019) began demolishing houses near a military wall on the outskirts of Jerusalem, in front of Palestinian protests and international criticism.

Bulldozers, accompanied by hundreds of Israeli soldiers and police, entered the Palestinian town of Sur Baher on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. Palestinians fear the demolition of buildings in the village near the fence could be preceded by similar demolitions in other towns along the hundreds of kilometer barrier around and across the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces crossed a barbed wire section of the wall at Sur Baher early on Monday and began to drive residents out of the area. The floodlights lit up the area as dozens of vehicles moved police and army personnel into the village. With the first light of the day, the excavators began demolishing a two-story house and soldiers moved on several floors to a nearby building under construction.

The scene depicted Palestinians, Israelis and international activists gathered in the area in an attempt to stop the demolition.

"They have been forcibly removing people from their homes and starting to plant explosives in the houses they want to demolish," said Hamada Hamadeh, one of the leaders of Sur Baher.

The head of the wall and settlement resistance, Walid Assaf, told the Palestinian News and Information Agency (WAFA) that a two-story building was demolished and another one consisting of several floors in preparation for a demolition.

Residents fear that a large-scale demolition will be carried out in response to the arbitrary decision to demolish more than 100 apartments. The demolition is the latest in a long-running debate over the future of Jerusalem, home to more than 500,000 Israelis and about 300,000 Palestinians.

Israel beginnt, Häuser am Stadtrand von Jerusalem abzureißen (Reuters / A. Awad)

Israel justifies house demolitions and Palestinians respond

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in June that the buildings violated a construction ban in the area. On 18 June, the residents received a notification from the Israeli authorities, giving them 30 days before the demolition orders were implemented. The Israeli authorities have issued demolition orders for the buildings, justified by their presence in a security zone near the Israeli wall that isolates Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank. The deadline for the demolition of buildings expires on Friday.

Palestinians accuse Israel of using security as a pretext to force them to leave the area as part of ongoing efforts to expand settlement and open roads linking the settlements. Palestinians say most of the buildings are located in areas under civilian control of the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords.

Some residents said they would be displaced. The owners of the buildings say they received building permits from the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited autonomy in the West Bank.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Israeli decision includes 10 buildings, some under construction, displacing 17 people and affecting 350 others.

Diplomats, mostly Europeans from some 20 countries, on July 16 toured the Wadi Hummus neighborhood of Sur Bahir, where Palestinian officials urged them to take measures to prevent Israel from demolishing homes. Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith called on diplomats and their countries to "stop these ongoing crimes." The diplomats, including the Consul General of France in Jerusalem, Pierre Kochar, met with residents from the neighborhood.

The Israeli authorities regularly demolish what they consider to be illegal structures for Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel refrains from granting building permits to Palestinians in areas under its control, and Palestinians and human rights activists say the ban has caused housing shortages.

(Reuters, AFP, AFP)

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