Occupation forces demolish Palestinian homes in Jerusalem for two consecutive days

Published July 21st, 2016 - 04:00 GMT
The file photo of an Israeli army bulldozer demolishing a Palestinian home in the West Bank. (AFP/File)
The file photo of an Israeli army bulldozer demolishing a Palestinian home in the West Bank. (AFP/File)

Bulldozers escorted by Israeli police and Jerusalem municipality inspectors demolished on Wednesday several Palestinian structures located adjacent to the Atarot settlement industrial park north of Jerusalem, a day after structures were torn down in neighboring Beit Hanina, as well as in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

One of the owners of the structures, Kamal Abu Sneina, told Ma'an that Israeli forces and municipality inspectors deployed into the area and started to tear down his structures while the owners were not present.

"When we arrived, we were forced to stay away," Abu Sneina said, adding that police officers detained him inside a police vehicle while the demolition was carried out.

The demolished properties, he said, were two tin shacks, four shipping containers used as stores and offices, in addition to a vehicle, a diesel tank, and two trucks.

Abu Sneina added that he was not given the opportunity to empty the structures and vehicles of his belongings before they were destroyed.

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the Jerusalem Municipality said that "the Jerusalem Zoning Authority and the National Police Force enforced a court order by removing temporary structures illegally placed on public land in the Atarot area," confirming that they were not located within the settlement area itself.

"No permits were requested for the structures, nor would such permits be granted as the land in question is not owned by the individual who owns the containers. The demolition order was the result of court procedures dating back to October 2015, which were launched as a result of the individual's refusal to voluntarily vacate the public land."

The Atarot industrial park is located within a narrow space carved out by Israel's separation wall -- cutting it off from the Qalandiya refugee camp and al-Ram just east beyond the wall in the central occupied West Bank -- and is the Jerusalem Municipality's largest industrial zone.

The park, expropriated into the Israeli-defined greater Jerusalem municipal area in the years following the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, is also neighbored by the Palestinian communities and industrial sites in the villages of Beit Hanina to the south and Bir Nabala to the west.

Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq said in June that it had "documented increased pressure by the Jerusalem municipality on residents and business owners in Beit Hanina located near the Israeli settlement of Atarot," adding that locals linked the increase in inspections to a recently constructed Israeli supermarket nearby.

"Al-Haq is concerned that Palestinian residents and business owners in Beit Hanina and nearby areas will continue to be targeted by the Jerusalem Municipality as Atarot settlement develops," the statement added.

The incident came as the latest in a series of demolition carried out by the Jerusalem Municipality on Palestinian structures in the area.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian home under construction in Beit Hanina was demolished for lacking the required Israeli-issued permits, within hours of structures being demolished in the Silwan neighborhood further south in East Jerusalem.

Last week, 43 Palestinians, including 25 children, were made homeless in less than 48 hours due to Israeli demolitions in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir to the south and a Beduoin refugee community in Anata in the northern area of the city, according the UN.

Spokesperson for UNRWA Chris Gunness said in a statement that the July 12 and 13 demolitions included structures funded by an international NGO, while those displaced included a 48-year-old man suffering from Parkinson's disease, a 48-year-old man with a physical disability rendering him unable to walk, an 85-year-old woman, and a woman seven months into her pregnancy.

"While condemning this disregard for international law, we would respectfully remind Israel, the occupying power, that under the Fourth Geneva Convention, it has an obligation to respect family rights including the dwellings of the protected population -- not destroy them," Gunness wrote.

Only 14 percent of East Jerusalem land is zoned for Palestinian residential construction, while one-third of Palestinian land has been confiscated since 1967 to build illegal Jewish-only settlements, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Nearly 579 homes have been destroyed in the city over the last twelve years, leaving 2,218 Palestinians homeless in total, Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem reported.

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