The Municipality of Jerusalem demolished Palestinian houses in Issawiyya on Wednesday. The house of the brothers Mustafa (Nabil, Muhammed & Saad) was demolished before construction was completed. They, like their neighbors whose houses are also facing demolition, had excavated part of a hillside in order to to construct a large 450m home for their families. Their house lacked a building permit, like 40% of all the houses in Palestinian Jerusalem. Muhammed said “it was too expensive” and indeed, to build a house big enough for three families, the permit alone would cost over US$60,000.
The zoning and planning bureaucracy in Jerusalem, which also governs Occupied East Jerusalem, is organized to enable construction of entire new neighborhoods and against private land ownership. Thus it is easier, bureaucratically speaking, for the city to sponsor the development for a whole new settlement in East Jerusalem than it is for an individual Palestinian family to obtain a permit, if they could afford one that is.
The house of Hatem Khalil was demolished earlier in the day. It was the third time his house was demolished, the first since 2000. For rebuilding his house “illegally” he was imprisoned last year. He was injured during the demolition and remains hospitalized. The three demolitions Wednesday, four Tuesday, and others recently add to the destruction over 3,900 houses demolished in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions estimates that over 23,700 houses have been demolished in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza during the 41 years of Israel’s ongoing military occupation. Present at each of the demolitions today was war criminal Yaron Elias (pictured below), the municipal official in charge of demolitions.