Israel demolished a record number of homes in occupied East Jerusalem in 2019, an Israeli advocacy group has revealed in a new report.
Non-profit organisation Ir Amim said that more than 140 Palestinian homes were demolished in the occupied city last year, resulting in the displacement of 238 people, 127 of whom were minors. The corresponding figure for 2018 was 72 homes. The worst month in 2019 for such destruction was April, during which 63 homes and other structures were demolished.
The Israeli authorities argue that the structures were constructed without the necessary permits and that “cease work orders” are often issued while the structures are still being built, which owners routinely ignore. In response, Ir Amim noted that Palestinians are effectively left with no choice but to build without permits because applications by Palestinians are rarely, if ever, approved. Despite the obvious risks involved in going ahead without permits, personal circumstances often mean that the homeowner has no other option.
The Ir Amim researcher who wrote the report, Aviv Tatarsky, said that only seven per cent of housing units approved by city planners last year were for Palestinian neighbourhoods, even though Palestinians make up about a third of Jerusalem’s population. “The situation in East Jerusalem was very bad last year,” he pointed out.
This systematic refusal policy pursued by Israel disregards the principles of international law, and reflects the state’s pursuit of demographic change in East Jerusalem through every means at its disposal.
Around 650,000 Israeli Jews live in more than 100 illegal settlements built in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967 when the second stage of Israel’s occupation of Palestine began. International law still considers both the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be occupied territories and all Jewish settlements therein as illegal.