Bahrain, Jordan, France among those condemning Jerusalem area demolitions

Bahrain, Jordan, France among those condemning Jerusalem area demolitions

Israel says buildings razed Monday in area under PA control were built too close to security barrier

This picture taken on July 22, 2019 shows buildings demolished by Israel in the area of Sur Baher in East Jerusalem. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
This picture taken on July 22, 2019 shows buildings demolished by Israel in the area of Sur Baher in East Jerusalem. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

Several nations and international bodies, including France, Jordan, Qatar, the EU and the UN, condemned Israel’s razing of Palestinian homes on the edge of Jerusalem on Monday that Israeli officials said posed a security threat.

The homes, in an area known as Wadi al-Hummus, are part of the southern Jerusalem village of Sur Baher, but fall outside of Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and inside Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of the West Bank.

Israel says the buildings were constructed illegally and built too close to the security barrier that passes nearby.

Bahrain, which recently made headlines by hosting the US-led economic summit that is part of the Trump administration’s peace plan, slammed the demolition, citing its “rejection of these illegal acts which constitute a flagrant violation of the rights of the brotherly Palestinian people.”

In a statement Monday, the foreign ministry in Manama said it “reaffirms the position of the Kingdom of Bahrain, which supports the right of the brotherly Palestinian people to establish their independent state on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the basis of the two-state solution.”

Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington on July 17, 2019. (Courtesy)

It called on “the international community to shoulder its responsibilities in complying with Israel’s obligation to respect the rights of the Palestinian people and to prevent them from continuing to carry out such unacceptable actions that would undermine efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the region.”

Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, also slammed the demolitions, saying they and other Israeli policies in the West Bank “blatantly contradict the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians, and international laws.”

In a statement Monday, Jordan’s foreign ministry demanded Israel “cease immediately these practices, which deepen despair and increase tension, and have a fundamental impact on the two-state solution.”

France condemned the “dangerous precedent” on Monday, saying it violated international law.

“These demolitions have taken place for the first time in an area controlled by the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords. They represent a dangerous precedent, which poses a direct threat to the two-state solution,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

Israeli security forces preparing to raze one of the Palestinian buildings still under construction in the Wadi al-Hummus area adjacent to the Palestinian village of Sur Baher in East Jerusalem, on July 22, 2019. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

In a statement, the Qatari government said the demolitions “violate the historical rights of the brotherly Palestinian people and is a crime against humanity that reflects the Israeli government disregard for international laws and resolutions of international legitimacy,”

Doha called for “urgent international intervention to oblige the Israeli entity to stop the demolitions and to provide protection to the Palestinian people.”

The EU criticized the demolitions as undermining hope for a lasting peace in the region.

“In line with the EU’s longstanding position, we expect the Israeli authorities to immediately halt the ongoing demolitions,” said a spokesman for the EU’s foreign policy arm, which represents the bloc’s 28 member states.

Pierre Cochard (C-R), the French consul general for Jerusalem, along with other EU diplomats are shown Palestinian buildings in Sur Baher which are slated to be be demolished, from the village of Dar Salah near Beit Sahur in the West Bank on July 16, 2019. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

“The continuation of this policy undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace and seriously jeopardizes the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both States.”

In the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for the demolitions, Israeli work crews moved into the neighborhood overnight. Massive construction vehicles smashed through the roofs of several buildings, and large excavators were digging through the rubble.

An Israeli defense official told The Times of Israel that 12 buildings had been demolished. Most of the buildings were under construction.

Palestinians have charged that the security concerns are a pretext to push them out of the Jerusalem area, and say it is nearly impossible to receive construction permits from Israeli authorities, resulting in a housing shortage in Arab neighborhoods in the city.

Residents of Sur Baher fear another 100 buildings in the area in a similar situation could be at risk in the near future.

Residents say Wadi al-Hummus is the only direction Sur Baher is able to expand as the barrier and increased Israeli building in the capital have hemmed in the neighborhood from other directions.

Though Wadi al-Hummus is on the Israeli side of the security fence, the PA takes responsibility for the residents there.

The Palestinian village of Beit Sahur in the West Bank shows Palestinian buildings which have been issued demolition notices, in the Sur Baher neighborhood of East Jerusalem, July 11, 2019. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

According to the United Nations, some 20 people already living in the buildings were set to be displaced, while 350 owners of properties that were under construction or not yet inhabited were also affected.

The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs said it was following the demolitions with “sadness,” and said Israel’s security pretext did not hold water.

“Israel’s policy of destroying Palestinian property is not compatible with its obligations under international humanitarian law. Among other things, the destruction of private property in occupied territory is only permissible where rendered absolutely necessary for military operations, which is not applicable,” the body said in a statement.

Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the civil affairs department of the Palestinians Authority, called Monday’s demolition a “crime” and demanded international intervention.

The office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas described it as a “massacre.”

Israeli security forces prepare to demolish Palestinian buildings still under construction, which have been issued notices to be demolished in the Wadi al-Hummus area adjacent to the Palestinian village of Sur Baher in East Jerusalem, on July 22, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

“This is part of the ‘deal of the century’ which aims to put an end to the Palestinian issue,” it added, referring to the peace plan pushed by US President Donald Trump’s administration, which is yet to be unveiled. The PA accuses Trump of being biased toward Israel and has already rejected the plan.

Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan slammed the EU on Monday for its condemnation, saying Europe was blindly accepting Palestinian “lies” about the homes.

“The spokespeople of the EU, as usual, bought into the lies of the Palestinians without any in-depth examination while spreading their bias,” Erdan wrote on Twitter. “When illegal construction presents a security threat, Israel has the authority, including according to the Oslo Accords, to enforce the law against it. The Supreme Court even ruled in favor of such. The Palestinian purposely built their houses next to the security barrier!”

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