Israel leaves family of 30 homeless after demolishing their building in Silwan
A Palestinian walks through a destroyed home in Silwan after it was razed by Israeli authorities in March. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
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A multi-unit building in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan was demolished on Wednesday, leaving an extended family of 30 Palestinians -- mostly children -- homeless, after the Jerusalem municipality rejected the family's attempts to obtain building permits for nine years.
Early Wednesday morning, Israeli municipality and police forces raided Silwan, which is just south of the Old City, and completely surrounded the al-Jisr area to carry out the demolition of the Jaafreh family home under the pretext that the structure lacked the required Israeli-issued permits.
Issa Jaafreh told Ma'an that Jerusalem municipality workers evacuated residents before starting the demolition.
He said that an officer had also raided the building on Tuesday to inform him that the demolition would be taking place on Wednesday.
Jaafreh added that the building was built 17 years ago, and that the first demolition order was issued against the building nine years ago.
The family has attempted to obtain licenses during this period, he said, but the municipality refused all attempts until the family was informed of the final demolition order.
The two-level building is comprised of four apartments of 125 square meters each.
Jaafreh, his mother, and his three brothers with their families lived in the building.
He said that a total of 30 members of his family were left homeless by the demolition, and most of them were children.
A Jerusalem municipality spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment to confirm the details of the case.
Silwan is one of many Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem that is seeing an influx of Israeli settlers at the cost of home demolitions and the eviction of Palestinian families.
Last year, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) slammed what it termed Israel's "systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians" in Silwan.
The PLO said that Israeli policies "in Silwan aim not only to alter the historic character of the area and to consolidate Israeli control over the Old City of Jerusalem ... but also contribute to the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem."
Demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have seen an unprecedented surge in recent months, with the number of structures demolished in the first half of 2016 already well exceeding the total number of demolitions carried out in all of 2015.
More than 1,293 Palestinians have been displaced since the beginning of 2016 as a result of demolitions in the occupied territory, compared to 688 Palestinians displaced over the entirety of 2015, according to UN documentation.
Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including 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.
However, testimonies collected by the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ) in Silwan 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, and only seven percent of Jerusalem building permits go to Palestinian neighborhoods.
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