Israel razes 6 East Jerusalem sites
Palestinians say three structures were homes
JERUSALEM — Israeli bulldozers destroyed six buildings in contested East Jerusalem yesterday, resuming the demolition of Palestinian property after a halt aimed at encouraging peace talks.
Jerusalem house demolitions are a volatile issue because of conflicting Israeli and Palestinian claims to the city’s eastern sector. Israel sees it as part of its capital city, while Palestinians want it for their future capital.
The municipality contended none of the structures razed was a home and that all had been illegally built and were not populated. The demolitions were carried out by a court order, the municipality said in a statement.
Palestinians disputed those assertions, saying three of the demolished structures were homes and one was a warehouse. Two daybeds and bags crammed with children’s clothing and kitchen utensils were strewn outside one of the buildings.
Basem Isawi, 48, an unemployed contractor, stood stony-faced amid the rubble of his nearly finished home, forbidding his six children to come out of the nearby house where they currently live to see what had happened to it.
Isawi said he was building the home illegally for about $25,000 because he was convinced the municipality would deny him a permit.
He had been notified of the impending demolition but did not know when it was slated to happen, he said.
“We watched them destroy the house, and we couldn’t do anything,’’ Isawi said. Police said the demolitions were carried out without incident.
Since October, no houses had been demolished in the eastern sector of the city until yesterday. The demolitions seemed to indicate a move away from the unofficial freeze on them, which Israel imposed after much criticism from Washington.
On Monday, a Jerusalem municipal committee gave preliminary approval to 32 apartments in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, rolling back a decision earlier this year to quietly put new projects on hold.
And in recent weeks, the municipality has begun demolishing small, uninhabited structures, such as sheds, built without permits. Palestinians say both demolitions and settlement construction undermine their efforts to establish a state on territory Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestine’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the demolitions. “This government of Israel has been given the choice between settlements and peace and it is obvious that it chose settlements,’’ he said.
The office of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would not comment yesterday.