Demolition of Palestinian homes prompts call for UN meeting
Jordan and Egypt asked to intervene as Israel knocks down east Jerusalem buildings
Palestinians watch Israeli security forces tear down a building still under construction in the Wadi al-Hummus area close to the Palestinian village of Sur Baher. Photograph: Hazem Bader/AFP
The Palestinian leadership has appealed to Jordan and Egypt to intervene to prevent Israel demolishing dozens of Palestinian homes in an east Jerusalem village, and is demanding an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council to address the issue.
Almost 1,000 Israeli border police and soldiers entered the Jerusalem village of Sur Baher early on Monday and began destroying buildings in the Wadi al-Hummus neighbourhood, which adjoins the concrete barrier Israel built between the West Bank and Israel.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israeli operation, describing it as part of the US administration’s “Deal of the Century” that, he said, aspired to eliminate the Palestinian issue.
But Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan stressed that the action came after Israel’s high court of justice had ruled unequivocally that the buildings had been built illegally near the separation fence and were a danger to civilians and to the security forces.
“The residents there, despite an order from the military commander, take the law into their own hands and build. Today there are hundreds of illegal buildings there and a few dozen of them are situated almost on the route of the separation fence and endanger the security forces. Terrorists could use these buildings.”
The European Union urged Israel to immediately halt the demolitions, saying they were the continuation of a policy that undermined prospects for a lasting peace.
The barrier divides the village of Sur Baher and some of the homes demolished by Israel were in Area A of the West Bank, which is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. Residents claimed they had obtained permits from the authority to build as it is almost impossible to gain permission for construction in the Israeli part of the village.
According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Israel plans to demolish a total of 13 buildings, including at least 14 apartments, the vast majority of which are in various stages of construction. Until Monday morning, the buildings were home to two families including 17 people, of whom 11 are minors.
Israel built its security fence on the Jerusalem seamline in the early 2000s, saying it was vital to prevent the infiltration of Palestinian suicide bombers into Israel. The Palestinians claim the barrier is an illegal land grab because its route juts into the West Bank in many places.
According to Ir Amim, an Israeli NGO that advocates for equality and coexistence in the city, Israel has stepped up demolitions of unauthorised Palestinian properties in east Jerusalem.
It said Israel demolished some 63 homes in the first half of this year, compared to 37 during the same period last year.
“What is happening today is a mass displacement of the people living in Wadi Hummus, despite the legal and diplomatic attempt to protect their property,” said Ali al-Obeidi, the chair of the Wadi al-Hummus residents committee.
UN officials warned that Israel’s actions were “not compatible with its obligations under international humanitarian law”.