Monday, October 31, 2011

Israel demolishes Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

East Jerusalem residents clear the rubble of their demolished home in At-Tur
neighborhood near the Mount of Olives on Nov. 26, 2010. Israeli police razed
the house shortly before the owner, a father of five, arrived with a court order
halting the demolition. (MaanImages/Mimmi Nietula)

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Monday demolished five homes belonging to Palestinians in East Jerusalem, locals said.

The demolitions, in Khan al-Ahmar near the illegal Israeli settlement Maale Adumin, displaced 71 people, including 60 children, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

ICAHD, a prominent Israeli non-governmental organization, said Monday that Israel was forcing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem as part of a deliberate policy that might constitute a war crime.

The organization has presented the United Nations with its findings and demanded an inquiry, saying Israel targeted Palestinians by demolishing homes, revoking residency and eroding quality of life.

"We are witnessing a process of ethnic displacement," said Michael Sfard, a lawyer who helped draw up a 73-page report into the issue. "Israel is manifestly and seriously violating international law ... and the motivation is demographic."

Stephan Miller, a spokesman for Israel's mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, dismissed the report. He said in a statement it was based on "misleading facts, blatant lies and political spin about Jerusalem, so I'm sure the UN will enjoy it."

Israel seized East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the 1967 Middle East war. It later illegally annexed the area and surrounding West Bank villages into a Jerusalem municipality that it declared the united and eternal capital of Israel.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and world powers have not recognized the annexation.

There are some 300,000 Palestinians residents in East Jerusalem, representing about 35 percent of the city's total population, but ICAHD said that since Israel took control of Palestinian areas it had systematically prevented their development.

One third of land in East Jerusalem was taken for the construction of Jewish-only neighborhoods, while only nine percent of the remaining land is legally available for housing. This has all been built on, making expansion impossible.

ICAHD said it was virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits to house their growing families.

"They have no other option than to leave East Jerusalem, build illegally or live in appalling, cramped conditions," said Emily Schaeffer, who authored the report.

Demolitions and residency

Maan News Agency: