Israel demolition in east Jerusalem leaves 35 homeless

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Israeli authorities demolished a residential building in annexed east Jerusalem on Tuesday, leaving 35 people, the majority of them children, homeless.

The demolition of the three-story building in the neighborhood of Silwan was carried out because the owners lacked the required permits, the authorities said.

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Israel regularly razes homes built by Palestinians in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank if they lack the relevant construction permits.

The catch, according to an UN study, is that such permits are “virtually impossible” to obtain, and the result is a chronic housing shortage.

“Municipality personnel came at 9:00 a.m., broke the doors, expelled us and didn’t let us take any belongings,” said Faris Rajabi, 35, who lived in the building.

Palestinian youths looked on in the presence of Israeli forces as heavy machinery was used to tear down the structure, an AFP photographer reported from the scene.

Rajabi said his family had gone to great lengths and paid over $100,000 in fines and fees in order to settle the issue in the courts.

The building included five apartments and housed 35 members of the Rajabi family, Faris Rajabi told AFP.

Silwan, adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City, is the site of a campaign by Jewish settler groups to expand Israeli presence there.

Palestinians have decried the influx of settlers, accusing them of seeking to push them out of their own neighborhood.

The demolition was “political, not legal,” said Rajabi, adding that “they anyway don’t give us permits, and this is a policy of dispossession and ethnic cleansing.”

The Palestinian Red Cross said five Palestinians, including a journalist, were beaten by police at the site of the demolition, adding one was hospitalized.

Nearly 40 structures have been razed in east Jerusalem this year, displacing about 100 people, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs.

Some owners prefer to raze their homes themselves to avoid being charged thousands of shekels for the demolition, by the city’s demolition crews.

Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by most of the international community.

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