Israeli authorities early Tuesday destroyed 11 Palestinian homes in an area on the outskirts of Jerusalem divided from the city by Israel's separation barrier, residents and an NGO said. A leading Israeli human rights group says Israel has demolished more Palestinian homes in the West Bank this year than it did nearly every other year in the last decade.
A convoy of Israeli security vehicles and bulldozers carried out the overnight demolitions in Qalandiya, presumably because authorities allege the owners did not have building permits. Two of the homes are considered part of the occupied West Bank and nine part of annexed East Jerusalem, Israeli NGO Ir Amim said. Two of the East Jerusalem homes were inhabited, it said.
Clashes broke out during the demolitions, leaving several Palestinians wounded, according to the NGO. Among the structures destroyed was a two-storey building, leaving 44 people homeless, including 11 children, said Ir Amim. "The family claims to have received a building permit in 1983 from the Jerusalem municipality covering an area of 4,000 square meters, only half of which has been developed," it said.
Mohammed al-Jouri, a resident whose home was destroyed, said Israeli authorities "warned us Monday afternoon that they were going to destroy our houses, some which were still under construction." Piles of rubble and metal rods could be seen in the area on Tuesday where houses previously stood. Residents sought to collect mattresses, electronic equipment and furniture still intact.
Imad Abu Shalbek, whose brother's home was destroyed, said a notice had been posted by authorities behind the house that they had not seen until after the demolition. Shalbek was planning to take in his nephews for the time being. "The father invested all his life and his savings in that house and now he doesn't know where he is going to go," Shalbek said.
Israel this year has ramped up demolitions of Palestinian structures it says lack permits. The B'Tselem group reported Monday that Israeli authorities demolished 168 homes in the West Bank from January to the end of June this year. It says that's more than the number of homes demolished in 2015, and higher than the annual rate of demolitions since 2006, except for the 175 Palestinian homes demolished in 2013.
The group says this year's demolitions left 740 Palestinians homeless. Permits are however nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain in the part of the West Bank under full Israeli control, which amounts to some 60 percent of the territory, UN officials say.
Demolitions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank so far this year have already surpassed the amount for 2015. In East Jerusalem alone this year, 78 demolitions have occurred compared to 74 in 2015, Ir Amim said.
B'Tselem says most of the demolitions were in areas of the West Bank where Israel controls building. Israel says much Palestinian building in those areas is illegal.
"These efforts to break the contiguity of Palestinian East Jerusalem with the West Bank pose a severe threat to the two state solution," added Ir Amim.
Beyond the Qalandiya demolitions, others were also carried out in East Jerusalem on Tuesday. They included a home under construction and an auto repair business in the Issawiya area as well as a residential building in Ras al-Amud, the NGO said.
Israeli authorities did not respond to requests for information on the demolitions.