OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities Monday demolished four Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem that had been built without construction permits, police and residents said.
A total of 20 people lived in the four buildings, two of them located in the Issawiya neighborhood and two in Beit Hanina, occupants told AFP.
They had been served demolition orders because they did not have the necessary construction permits, police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
She added the demolitions went ahead without incident.
The Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, Adnan al-Husseini, told official Voice of Palestine radio it was an attempt to “isolate these areas” from the rest of Arab East Jerusalem.
Husseini also lamented the Supreme Court’s rejection Sunday of a petition against constructing a highway that would link Jerusalem to the southern settlement blocs of Gush Etzion and Har Homa, cutting right through the Palestinian town of Beit Safafa.
In 2013, Israel destroyed 99 buildings in occupied East Jerusalem, leaving 298 people homeless, according to United Nations humanitarian affairs agency OCHA.
Palestinians and human rights groups in the city say Israel rarely grants the permits, forcing residents to build homes without them.
Israel defines the whole of Jerusalem as its “eternal and indivisible” capital, while the Palestinians claim the eastern sector, occupied during the 1967 war in a move never recognized by the international community, as the capital of their state.
The demolitions came as chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said comments by the Israeli Prime Minister at the World Economic Forum showed Benjamin Netanyahu was against the establishment of an independent Palestine.
“Anyone who says they want the settlers to remain is actually saying they don’t want the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Erakat said.
Erakat was reacting to comments by Netanyahu at last week’s WEF gathering in Davos, where the premier insisted Israel would not evacuate Jewish settlements built on occupied land.
Netanyahu has publicly supported the two-state solution during U.S.-sponsored talks which envisage a Palestinian state alongside Israel as part of a final peace agreement.
But at Davos, the premier told Israeli journalists at a briefing, “I have said before and I say again; I do not intend to dismantle any settlement, I don’t intend to uproot any Israeli.”
Israel’s settlements, which are illegal under international law, are a key sticking point that is preventing peace talks from making any progress.
Meanwhile, on the Gazan border Israeli troops shot and seriously wounded a Palestinian man, emergency services in the Hamas-ruled territory said.
Spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said the 34-year-old was shot east of Deir al-Balah in the center of the strip, without giving his name.