(photo credit: REUTERS)
Three illegally constructed Arab homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan were demolished by government bulldozers during the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday morning, marking the fourth such residential demolition there in one week.
According to the International Middle East Media Center, a Palestinian news service, at 4:30 a.m. a coterie of Israeli soldiers cordoned-off the area and proceeded to raze the homes, located adjacent to the Old City.
Two of the homes, belonging to the Abu Khaled family, were built last year without construction permits. The family unsuccessfully filed numerous appeals at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to prevent the demolition prior to a May ruling authorizing it, IMEMC reported
The residence's owner, Nidal Abu Khaled, said that the demolition was originally scheduled to take place two weeks ago, but that stairwells precluded bulldozers from leveling them. This time, he told IMEMC that soldiers came with machinery capable of reaching elevated floors.
The third home was a third-floor apartment located on Salah Ed-Deen Street, belonging to resident Rafiq Salayma, where he lived with eight family members for the past six years, IMEMC reported.
Last Wednesday government bulldozers also demolished an illegally-constructed Arab home in the neighborhood belonging to the Nassar family. One week before that, three illegally-built shops and a house under construction were also demolished in Silwan.
Following last week’s demolitions, Meretz City Councilman Dr. Meir Margalit, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio in the municipality, described the move as heavy-handed and poorly timed.
“In this moment in Jerusalem, when the tension is so high, and when the international community is focusing their attention on what’s going on in the city, it’s a double mistake,” he said.
“On an international level, we must do everything we can in order to calm the situation in the city, and this will not help.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has repeatedly stated that the standard for obtaining building permits is uniform throughout the capital, and that illegally built Jewish structures in western Jerusalem are also routinely demolished.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, since the beginning of the year, the government has demolished 200 illegally built Arab homes in the West Bank and Jerusalem.