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Israeli demolition leaves seven families homeless in Jerusalem

Jerusalem24 – Israeli forces demolished on Wednesday morning a building housing over 50 Palestinians from the extended Al-Husseini family in the Wadi Qaddum neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem.

The building, which the family constructed in 2006, had been under threat of demolition since 2018 because Israeli authorities designated the site as a “green space” to be used as a public garden, and due to certain additions to the building lacking an Israeli-issued building permit quasi-impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

“We left so many things inside”

In 2019, Israeli forces demolished one-fifth of the originally 300 square meter building. The demolition order remained in place over the following four years. On 21 February 2023, following a renewed threat of demolition, an Israeli court granted the families a “grace period” of 21 days.

In April, the families received a new notice that the demolition would take place on Wednesday 17 May, and the families spent Tuesday emptying the apartments of their contents.

According to building-owner Nazira Al-Husseini, Wednesday’s demolition was supposed to be partial one as well, and they were left in shock when nothing remained standing.

“They said they would be demolishing parts of it, but not the whole building,” Al-Husseini told Al-Qastal News. “We took a few of our things out yesterday, but we left so much in there.”

Al-Husseini and her husband share the building with their six children and their own families.

One of Al-Husseini’s daughters-in-law, who lived in one of the apartments with her husband and ten children, told Jerusalem24 she was shocked when Israeli forces made her leave her home as well, as it wasn’t slated for demolition since it was one of the additions which had a building permit.

“I told them my house was not included in the demolition but they told me to get out, that the house would not be demolished,” she said. “Once I was outside, they demolished it – and it was an old building!”

“I don’t have another house to go to,” she added. “I’ll stay in a tent but I have to look for a house, all my children study in Ras Al-Amoud.”

Dozens more threatened in Wadi Qaddum

The demolition of another building in Wadi Qaddum housing 74 people including 42 children was postponed at the last minute on 6 February following an international outcry.

The demolition order has remained in force since, and could be executed imminently according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

The building is similarly slated for demolition due to being located in what the Israeli municipality in Jerusalem has declared a “green zone”, and due to lacking an Israeli-issued building permit.

According to Israeli NGO Bimkom–Planners for Planning Rights, recent Israeli policy changes have “drastically increased the rate and ease of demolitions and confiscations, obstructing the process to appeal these decisions for Palestinians both in Area C of the occupied West Bank and in occupied East Jerusalem.”

“There are two primary types of changes: the first expedites demolitions and confiscations; the second prevents planning processes that would protect buildings from demolitions or confiscations,” says a Bimkom report. “Whereas building new structures and avoiding demolitions and confiscations before these changes was difficult, now it is virtually impossible.”

Bimkom highlights that many of the new policy changes apply retroactively to structures, putting thousands of existing buildings and infrastructure “at risk of immediate destruction”.

Netanyahu’s spike in demolitions

In nearby Jabal Al-Mukaber, Palestinian Jerusalemite Diaa Abu Dahim began forcibly demolishing his own home the same day following an order from Israeli authorities making him liable to severe penalties if he failed to do so.

Prior to Wednesday’s demolitions, 37 homes had been demolished by Israeli authorities since the beginning of the year in occupied East Jerusalem alone, resulting in the displacement of 219 people including 117 children.

Far-right extremist and Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir boasted late last year of his intention to step up the rate of demolitions of Palestinian construction – both in occupied East Jerusalem and in the occupied West Bank – as a member of the incoming governing coalition.

There are has been a 46% increase in demolitions of Palestinian structures in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition (of which Ben-Gvir is one of the leading figures) came to power on 29 December 2022, compared to the same period the previous year.

Over 500 Palestinians, half of them children, have been made homeless so far this year.

Nadeen Alshaer contributed additional reporting to this article.

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