Israeli security forces began demolishing illegal Arab buildings in southeastern Jerusalem Monday morning, after police and Border Police units surrounded nearly a dozen unauthorized buildings, AFP reported.
Hundreds of Israeli police officers and soldiers began sealing off at least four multi-story buildings in the Wadi al-Hummus neighborhood of the Sur Baher section of southeastern Jerusalem early Monday, in preparation for their immediate demolition, AFP reported.
Reporters and activists were prevented from reaching the area and residents and activists were being dragged out.
One man yelled "I want to die here" after being dragged out.
The Israeli government warned residents that the illegal buildings were too close to the security wall on the city’s edge, thus raising security issues.
Ismail Abadiyeh, who lives in one of the buildings under threat with his family, said they would be left homeless.
"We will be on the street," he told AFP.
“Since 2 a.m. they have been evacuating people from their homes by force and they have started planting explosives in the homes they want to destroy,” resident Hamada Hamada told Reuters. “There are hundreds of soldiers here,”
Residents claimed that they had received permission to build the illegal structures from the Palestinian Authority.
A total of 10 buildings are slated for demolition, with as many as 100 more illegal structures in the area liable for demolition.
Following a series of court rulings, residents were given a 30-day notice of the impending demolition on June 18th. Most of the 10 buildings, housing roughly 70 apartment units, slated for demolition are still under construction.
A total of 17 people from three families currently live in the completed apartment buildings. Three-hundred-and-fifty people had planned to move in to the unfinished buildings once completed.
The demolitions would see 17 people displaced and another 350 affected, according to the United Nations.
European Union has called on Israel not to carry out the demolitions, saying they would ‘undermine’ the two-state solution.
“The continuation of this policy undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace.”
But the Israeli Supreme Court ruled against the Arab petitioners in the final appeal, noting that residents continued work on the buildings knowing they had not received the necessary permits.
“The petitioners took the law into their own hands when they began and continued building structures without receiving a special permit from the military commander,” the court said in its ruling green-lighting the demolitions.
The Palestinian Authority condemned Israel for the demolitions, and threatened to petition the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
“If the planned demolitions take place, Israel’s actions will constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as war crimes pursuant to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” the PA’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat said Sunday night.