In video - Israeli forces begin demolition campaign in al-Walaja

03:00 Sep 3 2018 Al-Walaja

Scenes (4). Credit: Hisham Abu Shaqra. Published by Maan News

A home demolished by Israeli forces in the Palestinian village of Walajeh, September 3, 2018. (Aviv Tatarsky/Ir Amim) Published by 972Mag

A Palestinian man is evacuated on a stretcher following clashes over Israeli home demolitions in the village of Walajeh, September 3, 2018. (Aviv Tatarsky/Ir Amim) Published by 972Mag

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces escorted several bulldozers that carried out a demolition campaign, on predawn Monday, in the al-Walaja village, west of the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Khader al-Araj, head of the al-Walaja village council, told Ma'an that Israeli forces along with bulldozers stormed the village to carry out demolitions under the pretext that the demolished homes were built without the difficult-to-obtain Israeli building permits.

Israeli bulldozers demolished a home belonging to Palestinian resident, Khaled Abu Khiyara, noting that Abu Khiyara and other residents of the planned-to-be-demolished homes received demolition orders only a few hours beforehand.

Israeli forces demolished Abu Khiyara's home several hours after an organized sit-in took place, which involved the residents staying inside the houses, in order to prevent the demolition.

Residents who participated in the sit-in were assaulted by Israeli forces as they were being removed from the home to allow the demolition to begin.

Al-Araj confirmed that violent clashes broke out between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces as they attempted prevent the demolition.

Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear-gas bombs towards a group of Palestinian youths, resulting in a number of them suffering from injuries and tear-gas inhalation.

Al-Araj also told Ma'an that another home was demolished by its owner, Hanan al-Razzem, who received a demolition order following an Israeli court decision on Sunday, threatening her to demolish her own home herself or to pay demolition costs to Israel for carrying out the demolition instead.

The Israeli court issued a final decision to demolish four inhabited Palestinian homes in the village, two of which are left to yet be demolished in the al-Walaja village, under the pretext of being built without a permit.

The two other homes planned-to-be-demolished belong to the Palestinian families of Abu al-Tin and Hajajla.

Nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally.

Meanwhile, the estimated 550,000 Jewish Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory are more easily given building permits and allowed to expand their homes and properties, despite living in settlements that violate international law.

Several wounded as Israel demolishes four homes in Walajeh

The village, part of which was annexed to East Jerusalem but left on the West Bank side of the separation barrier, has over 50 pending demolition orders. Israel has not approved any building permits since 1967.

By Aviv Tatarsky for 972Mag

Israeli bulldozers demolished four homes in the Palestinian village of Walajeh early Monday morning. The homes are on the West Bank side of Israel’s separation barrier, but technically inside the boundaries of the Jerusalem municipality. Israeli forces wounded at least seven Palestinian residents resisting the demolitions.

Israel annexed the northern part of Walajeh, which has around 100 homes, to Jerusalem in 1967. Because the municipality has refused to issue a master plan for the village, every home that has been built since 1967 was built without a permit. A master plan prepared by the residents themselves was rejected by a municipal committee, which claimed that the village is a “green area,” a designation akin to a national park.

Jerusalem has never provided Walajeh with any services, and the separation barrier completely cuts the village off from Jerusalem. However, since 2016, the same planning committee that rejected the village’s proposed master plan began issuing demolition orders for homes in the village.

Along with the four homes that were demolished on Monday, 13 homes total have been demolished in recent years and another 55 homes have outstanding demolition orders. Most of these orders are being fought in court, and Monday’s demolitions are a result of some of those cases recently being rejected.

On Monday morning, after Israeli forces demolished two of the homes in Walajeh, dozens of residents gathered inside, on the roof of, and around a third home in hopes of stopping its demolition. After a couple of hours, during which authorities demolished a fourth home, Israeli Border Police officers fired tear gas into the crowd of people trying to stop the demolition of the final home, and clashes, including some stone throwing, broke out.

At least seven Palestinians were wounded, including one who was taken away unconscious after a police officer hit him in the head with the barrel of his rifle. Another Palestinian man was wounded by a rubber-coated bullet, and one Israeli was lightly wounded.

Aviv Tatarsky is a researcher with Ir Amim. A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.
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