Israeli authorities demolished two buildings under construction in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya on Tuesday morning, according to Ma’an, citing local sources.
Issawiya follow-up committee member Muhammad Abu al-Hummus said that Israeli forces were heavily deployed in the neighborhood as bulldozers demolished a house belonging to Ahmad Abu al-Hummus.
The construction of the building was almost complete, and the Abu al-Hummus family had been preparing to move into the new home shortly, they said.
Israeli bulldozers then demolished another building under construction in the area belonging to the Muheisin family.
The Muheisins, according to Abu al-Hummus, started building the home a year ago but stopped construction after building the ground floor, upon receiving a demolition warrant from the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem.
Abu al-Hummus said that the municipality had frozen the demolition order on the home, but that the Muheisin family said Tuesday’s demolition came “without prior notice.”
A spokesperson for the Israeli Jerusalem municipality said that it had demolished “two illegal, uninhabited structures, which were built without permits and in violation of zoning plans.” They did not respond to questions over the reported freeze on the demolition order for the Muheisin’s house, according to Ma’an.
Israeli authorities have stepped up issuing demolition warrants for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, particularly after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat warned that the demolition of the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona in the occupied West Bank would be met with the mass demolition of Palestinian homes lacking the nearly impossible to obtain Israeli-issued building permits.
According to UN documentation, as March 20, 42 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished by Israel in East Jerusalem since the beginning of the year, displacing at least 80 Palestinians. A total of 190 Palestinian buildings were demolished in East Jerusalem in 2016.
Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in East Jerusalem, though the Jerusalem municipality has claimed that compared to the Jewish population, they receive a disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities, which also see high approval ratings.
However, testimonies collected by the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ) found that the procedures to apply for Israeli-issued building permits were lengthy, sometimes lasting for several years, while the application costs could reach up to 300,000 shekels ($79,180).
As four out of five of Palestinians in East Jerusalem live under the poverty line, applying for costly building permits is nearly impossible, leading to only seven percent of Jerusalem building permits go to Palestinian neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu has also pledged to lift all restrictions on settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem, while more than 6,000 housing units have been approved for construction in both East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank since the beginning of 2017.
In addition to land seizures and home demolitions, the crackdown on Palestinian Jerusalemites has also seen the escalation of violent night raids by Israeli police, carried out in breach of protocol and without proper search warrants.
The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the “Judaization” of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass home demolitions.