Israel Demolishes Two Palestinian Homes in East Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, August 25, 2015 (WAFA) – Israeli authorities Tuesday demolished two houses under construction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, under the pretext of construction without a permit, according to local sources.

WAFA correspondent said an Israeli police force accompanied by bulldozers broke into Silwan in the predawn hours, and cordoned off the area before proceeding to demolish the two homes, without any prior notice. The two homes belonged to two brothers identified as Mohammad and Khaled Abbasi.

Khaled Abbas told WAFA that the two homes were supposed to shelter 12 members of their families as both brothers have been living in their fathers home with their families for the past six years, noting that this is the second time forces demolish the two houses in a matter of four months,  citing the same pretext.

He added that the demolition of their homes incurred some 700,000 shekels (about $181,000) in construction expenses that all went in vain, adding: “We need to work for almost 10 years to cover our debts incurred by the construction of the two homes.”

To be noted, Israel imposes strict and almost unattainable terms for issuance of construction permits to Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and in Area C of the West Bank, both under complete Israeli control, forcing many Palestinians to embark on construction without obtaining a permit.

Although Palestinians in East Jerusalem are living in a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian Territory that has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967, they are denied citizenship and classified only as ‘residents’ whose permits can be revoked if they move away from the city.

They are also discriminated against in all aspects of life including housing, employment and services, and remain unable to access services in the West Bank due to the construction of Israel’s separation wall.

Humanitarian and legal bodies and institutions such as the UN, OCHA and B’Tselem confirm that the planning policies applied by Israel in Area C and East Jerusalem discriminate against Palestinians, making it extremely difficult for them to obtain building permits.

“As a result, many Palestinians build without permits to meet their housing needs and risk having their structures demolished. Palestinians must have the opportunity to participate in a fair and equitable planning system that ensures their needs are met,” OCHA reports.

According to OCHA, in 2014 alone, Israeli authorities demolished a total of 97 buildings in East Jerusalem, while demolished five others in 2015, under the pretext of building without a construction permit.

On august 21, Spokesperson for the United States Department of State, John Kirby, in a statement,expressed deep concern over the recent Israeli escalation of Palestinian home demolitions.

“We are very troubled by the recent escalation of demolitions and evictions, which include the destruction of dozens of structures and the displacement of over 150 people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this month alone,” read the statement.

He described these demolitions and evictions as ‘harmful and provocative and indicative of a damaging trend, particularly given settlement-related activity and continued construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.’

In the meantime, 31 Aid groups, including Oxfam and Amnesty International,  denounced Israeli demolitions of homes in the West Bank, where the UN said 63 houses and other structures were destroyed this week alone, making 132 Palestinians homeless, said a statement also issued on August 21.

Citing UN figures, the aid groups said the demolitions made ‘132 people homeless, including 82 children, accounting for a quarter of the displacement from demolitions in 2015 and marking the highest number of people rendered homeless from demolitions in nearly three years’.

The Israeli government, the aid organizations said, should be held ‘accountable for the wanton destruction of Palestinian property and of projects funded by international aid in the occupied West Bank.’