Palestinians Continue To Be Forced To Self-demolish Their Homes

The Shqeirat family in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabber is one of the last families to be ordered by Israeli authorities to demolish their two homes. These were built in 2012 and measure 80 square meters each. The owners are Mahmoud and a father of four children, including an eight-month-old baby, and his brother, Daoud, a father of five. A total of 13 people, including five children are now homeless.

Israeli authorities have argued that the two families lack building permits, but the fact is that Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality denies at least 93% of all Palestinian building permit requests.

Like many other Palestinian families in Jerusalem, the Shqeirats opted to tear down their own homes to avoid the high cost of the demolition that the municipality charges. If someone refuses to self-demolish their home, they could face up to $2,500 in fines and up to 18 months in Israeli detention, according to Ramallah-based Al-Haq rights group.

The families first received the demolition orders three years ago but attempted to battle it in Israeli courts, to no avail. Some sources point out that they have paid more than 50,000 shekels ($15,680) in fines to the Jerusalem Municipality for lacking a permit while others point out to 100,000 shekels (about $32,000) as building fines.

On the same Monday, another Palestinian family in East Jerusalem, the Obeid family from the Isawiyya neighborhood was forced to demolish two apartments that were still in the construction stage.

Ayesh Obeid said he started five months ago to build the apartments for his two sons in a 200 square meters area and at a cost of $100,000 until he received 10 days ago a notice from the Israeli municipality to stop and to tear down what he had built. He said that he was building on land owned by his family for generations, but did not manage to get the permit for construction.

2 weeks ago, Israeli police forcibly removed a Palestinian family from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood that sparked a multitude of protests and culminated with the Gaza war last May.

The Salahiya family were protecting their home from being destroyed and stolen by the Israeli military for months and fought a legal battle for 5 years to head off their eviction. The eviction and demolition were the first to be successfully carried out in Sheikh Jarrah since 2017. Now they are taking the Israeli authorities to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Israel’s policy is clear: routinely carry out demolitions of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem, under different legal pretexts, to displace Palestinians and push them out of Jerusalem. NGOs and rights groups say that the ultimate goal is to alter the demographic ratio in favor of Jews to “maintain a solid Jewish majority in the city” as the municipality’s 2000 masterplan includes.

“Jerusalem has been the core target of Israel’s demographic engineering design aimed at entrenching its colonial domination over the Palestinian people as a whole,” Ramallah-based Al-Haq rights group stated in their annual report.

One of the easiest ways to displace Palestinians is arguing they have built without a permit because at least one-third of all Palestinian homes in Jerusalem lack one. 100,000 Palestinians are believed to be at risk of forced displacement and, currently, at least 218 Palestinian households (970 people, including 424 children) are facing forced evictions due to ongoing legal cases filed against them by Israeli settler groups and the Israeli government.

Forced displacement and transfer of militarily occupied population is a violation of international law and a war crime. Since Israel militarily occupied the eastern half of Jerusalem in 1967, only 13% is zoned for Palestinian development and residential construction, and 57% of all land has been expropriated by Israeli authorities, including from private Palestinian owners, to build illegal settlements and “green areas and public infrastructure”.

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