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13 Palestinian families may face displacement in Jerusalem

Israel wants to demolish a four-story building in occupied East Jerusalem, threatening 13 families with homelessness
4 min read
07 February, 2023
The demolition of the building was planned for this week, but a municipal spokesperson told The New Arab that the Israeli police had postponed it without giving a new date or reason. 
Palestinian residents stand in front of the building under threat of demolition, 6 February 2023. [Ibrahim Husseini/TNA]

Thirteen Palestinian families face the grim prospect of displacement after the Israeli-run Jerusalem municipality informed intent to demolish a building in Wadi Qaddoum in occupied East Jerusalem. 

The demolition of the building was planned for this week, but a municipal spokesperson told The New Arab that the Israeli police had postponed it without giving a new date or reason. 

Some speculate that the United States, and possibly European countries too, pressured Israel to halt the demolition. 

Deputy Jerusalem mayor Arieh King, an infamous pro-settler activist, vowed that the demolition would be executed. King criticised the decision to delay the demolition, suggesting in a tweet that Israeli PM Netanyahu bulked under pressure and halted the demolition. 

"This massive and illegal building will be demolished, under the nose and anger of  Netanyahu. Not because Bibi is so interested in its demolition, simply because there is a law in the country and this illegal building was built on an area designated for sports and leisure purposes, and this building is a dangerous building for its residents (cracks from the foundations to the roof, a dangerous building that will collapse with any slight tremor)."

Residents, however, fear municipal bulldozers and Israeli police may arrive on site anytime to carry out the demolition. 

International pressure appears to have halted Israel's plans to demolish this 4-story build]ing in occupied East Jerusalem, which houses 13 Palestinian families, on 6 February 2023. [Ibrahim Husseini/TNA]

The four-story building was constructed in 2014 without a permit, and a demolition order was issued several months later. Its residents say they have been in talks with the municipality to legalise the building for years but have been requested to meet complex demands, including allocating a piece of land at their expense for public use. 

"We live in great worry; we don't know what to do," said 58-year-old Emad Khatib, one of the residents of the building slated for destruction. 

"The municipality does not want to grant us [Palestinians] building permits. They don't want us to stay in the city," Khatib said. 

Building permits in occupied East Jerusalem are notoriously difficult to obtain from the city and other planning authorities. Further, Palestinians, who make up about 40 per cent of the population, charge that Israel deliberately put obstacles to limit their presence in the city by refusing applications for building permits. 

Juma'a Khalaileh, the lawyer representing the residents, told TNA that he received a message from the municipal legal advisor informing him that the  "demolition order is valid and is about to be executed."

"It's clear that the city is acting out of political considerations," Khalaileh said, recalling Israel's national security minister's statement of expediting the demolition of Palestinian homes following the shooting attack in which Palestinian gunman Khairy Alqam killed seven Israeli settlers in the illegal settlement of Neve Yacov in occupied East Jerusalem. 

The day before Alqam attacked, the Israeli army killed ten Palestinians during a raid at the Jenin refugee camp. 

At least 34 residential and non-residential structures have been demolished in East Jerusalem since the beginning of the year, including punitive demolitions of homes belonging to relatives of Palestinians who carried out attacks against Israelis. 

Palestinians, with various international human rights organisations, denounce punitive demolitions as collective punishment and a war crime.  

According to data collected by B'tselem between 2004-2022, Israel has demolished more than 1,860 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem alone, leaving 4,140 people homeless. 

Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in the 1967 war. Most countries consider East Jerusalem occupied and do not recognise Israel's annexation of the city and the region.