Israel Demolishes Dozens of Palestinian Homes in East Jerusalem
Last month, the Israeli Supreme court ruled that houses built in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher violated a construction ban. Palestinians contend the majority of the houses are in an area that belongs to the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli bulldozers knocked down on Monday multiple Palestinian apartment buildings in the internationally recognized occupied East Jerusalem, a move condemned and criticized by various regional and international bodies and governments.
According to local sources in the neighborhood, a southern Palestinian outskirt of East Jerusalem, several hundred Israeli soldiers and policemen forced residents of the Wadi Al-Homs area from their homes at dawn. The sources said that at least seven buildings, inhabited by dozens of residents, have been demolished.
“At least 1500 Israeli security personnel stormed the Wadi Al-Homs area in Sur Baher and bulldozers began demolishing 16 homes and apartment buildings after having forced out inhabitants to the streets. The demolitions took place in A area, whose jurisdiction belongs to the Palestinian Authority,” Hamada Hamada, head of the Wadi Al-Homs neighborhood association told the Palestinian Maan News Agency.
Adjacent to Israeli Security Fence
The Sur Baher outskirt of East Jerusalem straddles the occupied West Bank in an area where Israel erected a separation barrier in the early 2000s, stating it prevented infiltration by Palestinians into nearby Israel. Israel believes the barrier, a concrete wall, two wire fences, a watchtower, electronic sensors and a military patrol road, diminishes the possibility of suicide bombers and shooting attacks. The Israeli court agreed the dwellings could provide cover for any attack.
Gilad Erdan, the Israeli internal security minister, commented on the demolitions saying the move was necessary for security considerations, given the fact that the dwellings being demolished are very close to the separation barrier.
Palestinians have considered the separation barrier as an apartheid wall that shows a racist face of the state of Israel and aims at grabbing more Palestinian-owned properties and lands. The Palestine Liberation Organization, which signed peace accords with Israel in 1993, regards the latest wave of demolitions as unprecedented and constitutes a new Israeli war crime.
The PLO now wants revision of all past-signed agreements with Israel in light of the demolitions. In a televised speech, from his Ramallah-based office, top Palestinian negotiator and Secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, Saeb Erakat, blamed the recent U.S. backing of Israel for such unprecedented action.
“We would like to say it out loud to those who supported the recent Manama workshop for prosperity in the occupied Palestinian territories, just come and see how prosperous the Israelis want our Palestinian people to be,” Erakat said sarcastically.
United Nations sources suggest that about 350 Palestinians in the Sur Baher neighborhood of the occupied East Jerusalem face the threat of being displaced since Israel is going ahead with more demolitions in the Wadi Al-Homs neighborhood. The international organization warned against consequences of such an Israeli move, calling on the Israeli government to halt it.
The European Union condemned the demolitions and believes they would undermine chances for peace, based on a long-envisioned two-state solution.
The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, of which the Palestinian Authority is a member, also condemned the Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes.
Palestinians Blame US
Commenting to Citizen Truth on the demolitions, Gaza-based political analyst, Dr. Hussam Aldajany believed that international condemnation of the demolitions is not enough and that action is needed.
“Unfortunately, there has been a long series of pending-implementation U.N. resolutions, pertaining to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The latest of which was UNSC’s resolution 2334 of 2016, which criminalized Israeli settlements buildings in occupied Palestinian territories,” Aldajany said.
Asked by Citizen Truth why Israel has taken the action, following seven years of court-based controversy over the now-demolished homes, Aldajany said, “In fact, Israelis could not have made it without the absolute U.S. backing of Israel as well as the recent moves of normalization between Israel and some key Arab countries. You know that the U.S. recognized the whole Jerusalem area including east and west parts of the city, as the capital of Israel. The U.S. went further by moving its embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.”
Last week, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was quoted as saying, “Israel has the right to annex some parts of the West Bank.”
Friedman, himself, had earlier participated in an inauguration ceremony for the opening of an underground tunnel beneath the Muslim third holiest mosque of Al-Aqsa in east Jerusalem. The tunnel leads to the Jewish Wailing Wall, known among Muslims as the Buraq Wall.
Long-Time Unilateral Israeli Moves
Since the eruption of the second Palestinian uprising or Intifada in 2000, Israel began accelerating settlement building on the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Intifada came in the wake of the failure of Camp David II peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, under the auspices of former U.S. president Bill Clinton.
Palestinian-Israeli peace talks stalled five years ago, when Palestinians demanded the halt of all Israeli settlements activities as a prerequisite for any peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestinians.
In June 1967 Israeli forces occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip during the Arab-Israeli War. The U.N. Security Council at that time demanded an immediate withdrawal from those territories by means of the security council resolutions 242 and 338. In the 1970s Israel began settlement activities in the occupied territories. Israel named the West Bank as Judea and Samaria, which Israel believes to be exclusively Israeli land.
There are currently approximately 215,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem while the settler population in Area C in the occupied West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, is about 413,000. This brings the settler population to approximately 630,000 Israeli settlers in 143 settlement locations in the West Bank (132) including East Jerusalem and 106 outposts.