Saudi Arabia on Tuesday condemned Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes on the edge of Jerusalem a day earlier, urging world powers to “stop this aggression”
“The cabinet strongly condemned and denounced authorities of the Israeli occupation for the demolition of dozens of houses in… East Jerusalem,” said a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
“It called on the international community to intervene to stop this aggression and dangerous escalation that targets Palestinians.”
The condemnation from Riyadh came hours after Palestinians hurled abuse and chairs at a Saudi blogger who was visiting Jerusalem’s Old City as a guest of the Jewish state. Israel does not have diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia although the two countries have found a common foe in Iran.
Israel has come under fire from the Palestinians and the international community over the demolition of 12 residential buildings in an area known as Wadi al-Hummus, which is part of the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher. The area falls just outside of Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and is part of the Palestinian Authority-controlled area of the West Bank.
Israel said the buildings were constructed illegally and built too close to the security barrier that was built to prevent entry of terrorists from the West Bank. In the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for the demolitions, the buildings were razed Monday in an operation that involved hundreds of members of the security forces.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the Supreme Court ruled the illegal construction “constitutes a severe security threat and can provide cover to suicide bombers and other terrorists hiding among civilian population.”
He said that those who built houses along the separation barrier “took the law into their own hands.”
According to the United Nations, some 20 people already living in the buildings were being displaced, while 350 owners of properties that were under construction or not yet inhabited were also affected.
On Monday, several nations and international bodies, including France, Jordan, Qatar, the EU and the UN, condemned Israel’s razing of the buildings.
The EU said the demolitions undermined efforts to broker a lasting peace in the region, while senior UN humanitarian officials in the region expressed “sadness” over the demolitions and warned that many other homes could face “the same fate.”
“Israel’s policy of destroying Palestinian property is not compatible with its obligations under international humanitarian law,” the senior officials said.
Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the civil affairs department of the PA, called Monday’s demolition a “crime” and demanded international intervention.
In Gaza, the territory’s Hamas rulers called for intensifying “resistance” to “the Zionist settlement project.”
“The increase in the occupation’s crimes against the residents of the holy city is a result of total American support,” said Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for the terror group.
The demolitions capped a years-long legal battle over the buildings, built along the invisible line straddling the city and the West Bank. Residents say the buildings are on West Bank land, and the PA gave them construction permits.
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.
Israel gained control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. It later annexed East Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community. Israel says the security barrier is needed to prevent Palestinian terrorists entering the country from the West Bank to carry out attacks.