01/08/2020, 09.17
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In 2019 record demolitions of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem and the Territories

For B’Tselem activists, the Israeli government pulled down a "record" number of homes last year. Behind the demolitions "punitive measures" and issues related to "building permits". Thousands of Palestinians, including minors, have been left homeless. The tightening of policies also confirmed by a UN report.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - In 2019 Israel demolished a "record" number of (Palestinian) homes in East Jerusalem and the number of homes destroyed by the owners themselves has also reached unprecedented levels.

According to a report by activists from B’Tselem, an Israeli NGO that fights against the occupation in the Palestinian territories the number of houses demolished throughout the West Bank, both for "building permit issues" and for "punitive measures", are increasing.

Palestinians maintain that Israel continues to use the pretext of security to demolish houses, expropriate land and pursue the policy of expanding settlements along the roads that connect them, effectively preventing the birth of a future united state. They also point out that most of the buildings are located in areas intended for control by the Palestinian Civil Authority, based on agreements between the two governments.

Israel destroyed 265 structures in East Jerusalem last year. According to B’Tselem, which has clashed fiercly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on this issue, 169 housing units have been destroyed and it is the highest figure since 2004, when the NGO started to keep track. The demolitions left 328 Palestinians homeless, 182 of whom were minors. In 42 cases it was the same owners who proceeded, to avoid having to pay the taxes related to the city municipality.

96 non-residential structures were also demolished, 13 of which by the owners themselves.

In a statement sent to AsiaNews the activists note: "Palestinians in East Jerusalem are effectively left with no choice but to build without permits as a direct result of Israeli policy which makes it practically impossible for them to obtain building permits. Israel uses this policy to further its goal of perpetuating a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. One of the way in which it pursues this goal is by making life in the city unbearable for Palestinian residents, in a bid to push them to leave their homes, ostensibly of their own free will. ".

From 2004 to 2019 the municipality of Jerusalem demolished 978 housing units in the eastern sector, leaving 3177 people homeless (1704 minors).

As for the West Bank, Israel has torn down 256 structures. Of these, at least 106 were homes. A much higher figure than those recorded in 2017 and 2018. The demolitions left 349 Palestinians homeless, including 160 minors. Another 150 structures, not used as houses, were demolished again last year.

Since 2006, when the NGO began its study, Israel has razed to the ground about 1525 Palestinian housing units in the West Bank, leaving 6660 people in the middle of a street, including 3342 minors. The Israeli government has repeatedly promoted demolition and expropriation in communities it refuses to recognize and which are at risk of expulsion. In the same period, 779 non-residential structures in the West Bank were razed, including fences, water tanks, roads, depots, agricultural structures, businesses and public buildings.

The tightening of repressive policies, confirmed by a UN report that talks about a 45% increase compared to 2018, also concerns the cuts made by the military. At least 14 structures were razed by soldiers, the result of "punitive measures" that deprived 36 people (15 minors) of their home. Last year there were nine houses demolished by the military; seven the previous.

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