Israel demolishes dozens of Jerusalem homes amid outcry


22 July 2019| 19 Dhul Qadha 1440|Anadolu Agency

Israeli forces on Monday began to demolish dozens of buildings in East Jerusalem, amid Palestinian anger and international outcry. 

Bulldozers accompanied by hundreds of Israeli soldiers moved into the neighbourhood of Wadi Homs in the occupied city at dawn and began to raze several buildings in the area, according to residents. 

“The buildings are home to 350 Palestinians, more than half of them are children,” a resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Anadolu Agency. 

The Israeli army declared the area a military zone, preventing people and journalists from reaching it. 

Israeli authorities claim that the buildings were constructed without a permit. 

“The demolitions constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and war crimes pursuant to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)’s Executive Committee, said in a statement. 

He called on the international community “to immediately intervene to halt the demolitions and hold Israel accountable for its repeated violations of international law”.

In June, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition by the owners of the buildings to cancel the demolitions. A deadline for the residents to abandon the houses expired Friday. 

‘Ethnic cleansing’ 

The Palestinian Authority described the demolitions as part of the “deal of the century” – a U.S. backchannel plan for peace, which the Palestinians decry as an attempt to liquidate their cause. 

In a statement, the Ramallah-based authority held Israel fully responsible for the current escalation against unarmed Palestinians. 

It called on the international community “to immediately intervene to stop the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people, their land and holy sites”. 

Palestinian resistance group Hamas, for its part, described the Israeli demolitions as a “crime of ethnic cleansing”. 

“The Israeli crimes against our people in Jerusalem are the result of U.S. support to the racist Israeli occupation,” Hamas said in a statement. 

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), described the demolitions as a “war crime against the Palestinian people and part of U.S. policy of legitimising the Israeli occupation”. 

Last week, UN humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick and other UN officials called on Israel to halt the demolitions. 

The EU also criticised the demolitions for undermining “the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace”. 

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. 

In a move never recognised by the international community, Israel annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the self-proclaimed Jewish state’s “eternal and undivided” capital. 

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the decades-long Middle East dispute, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem might one day serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.