A Palestinian family from the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir was forced to demolish two of their own apartments on Sunday in accordance with an Israeli court order.
Israel’s central Jerusalem district court ordered in August that the family of Muhammad Khalil Abd al-Latif Jaabis demolish the two apartments, which the court said were constructed without proper permits.
According to Jaabis, the Jerusalem municipality threatened the family, saying that if they didn’t destroy the apartments themselves, the municipality would send demolition crews and then impose a demolition fee — a customary practice for Israeli authorities regarding home demolitions in the Jerusalem district.
Jaabis told Ma’an on Sunday that his family had rented a bulldozer and began demolishing the two apartments — one belonging to him and one to his father and brother — which were built more than 10 years ago.
He added that 12 individuals, including six children, lived in the two apartments, and that the families had been attempting to get permits for the homes for years, paying nearly 50,000 shekels ($13,035) in fines in the process.
Demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have seen an unprecedented surge this year, with the number of structures demolished in the first half of 2016 already well exceeding the total number of demolitions carried out in all of 2015.
More than 1,383 Palestinians have been displaced since the beginning of 2016 as a result of demolitions in the occupied territory, compared to 688 Palestinians displaced over the entirety of 2015, according to UN documentation.
According to the UN, the overall rate of Israeli demolitions since 2015 has exceeded every year since the UN began monitoring the practice in 2009.
Meanwhile, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat warned on Monday that any dismantlement of the illegal Israeli outpost Amona in the occupied West Bank would be followed by the mass demolition of Palestinian homes lacking Israeli-issued building permits in East Jerusalem.
According to AFP, the mayor was quoted as saying that the demolition of Amona — in line with an Israeli Supreme Court ruling — “could have implications for similar cases in Jerusalem, where Arabs have illegally built on private or municipal land.”
A large number of Israeli demolitions are carried out due to Palestinian homeowners not obtaining Israeli-issued building permits, though Palestinians are rarely granted permits by Israeli authorities to build, forcing many to build illegally.
In occupied East Jerusalem, though the Israel’s Jerusalem municipality has said that it receives a disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities compared to the Jewish population, and that Palestinian applications “see high approval ratings,” procedures to apply for Israeli-issued building permits are lengthy, sometimes lasting for several years, while the application costs can reach up to 300,000 shekels ($79,180).