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ICAHD: “Where shall I go now?”

A wave of house demolitions in East Jerusalem
Lucia and Angela of The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (www.icahd.org)

Again yesterday, houses were demolished in East Jerusalem. In the early morning the bulldozers moved into the neighborhood of Isawiyya, where they demolished a gas station. Then, they moved towards the neighborhood of Tel al Ful in Beit Hanina, were volunteers and staff from ICAHD where present at the site of the houses of Bassam Ramlawi and Nur al Din Damiri. At 9 a.m., dozens of police jeeps and ambulances appeared on top of the hill, and started to move down toward the houses. Two Israeli activists, Amnon and Shai, chained themselves to the fence on both sides of the dirt road leading to the houses, trying to block the passage of the many vehicles. However, when they saw the massive presence of border police and particularly the yamam (Special Forces) coming their direction, they knew it was hopeless and decided to unchain themselves. They feared they would be beaten up by the yamam, who have a reputation of being particularly violent. Even before they had the chance to totally remove the chains from the fence, members of the police cut open the locks which fastened the chains together.

Police then spread out to secure the area, and female border police tried to remove Amal Ramlawi from the doorway of her home. When she resisted, more Information Center filming and photographing the demolitions, where told to move away by the army. One of them refused, and after a short argument and pushing, was eventually removed and dragged up the hill, where he was asked to stand at a distance from the house. Amal was also finally removed from the house. Next, two orange Daewoo bulldozers appeared on the hilltop and started descending towards the houses. At 9:30, they began their work, demolishing the house of Bassam Ramlawi.

Meanwhile, at the house of Nur al Din Damiri, the family had been up since 2 a.m., removing their belongings from their modest two room house. The foreign workers, who were contracted to remove furniture from the houses, found themselves without work. At 9:54, the second bulldozer moved towards the house, and began to demolish it. Nur and his wife Ataf where standing at a safe distance from the house, watching the destruction of their home. It took the bulldozer exactly 7 minutes to demolish the house and dig up the foundation, thereby making 6 people homeless for the second time in two years. Nur worked for the Jerusalem police for 28 years, which didn’t prevent the exact same police from making him homeless twice. Out of desperation, Nur shouted at the police and soldiers in perfect Hebrew, asking them where he and his family would now go; a very valid question considering that all resources, both financial and personal, have run out.

At 10:25, the bulldozers had completed their work, and began climbing up the hill, leaving 4 adults and 13 children homeless. From there, they moved on to the Wadi al Dam area in Beit Hanina, where they demolished another two uninhabited structures.

Today three houses were demolished by the Ministry for the Interior. A house in A-Tur belonged to the Abu Sneineh family; amongst those now without a roof over their heads are three handicapped children. Bravo, Ministry for the Interior. The other two demolitions were in Ashkariya, Beit Hanina. The names and details are still unknown to us, but the Ministry for the Interior is no doubt proud of its fine work and wouldn’t want such a small detail to prevent us from celebrating. Let the Ministry for the Interior triumph!

We are at the beginning of a huge wave of new demolitions, judging from the examples of today and yesterday (9 buildings in two days); not to mention that in Silwan the municipality still has cancelled neither the project nor the demolition orders. ICAHD is extremely concerned that as the “Disengagement” from Gaza approaches closer, so
will the number of house demolitions rise. We are worried that the media may be becoming less and less sensitive to the issue of house demolitions apart from two Palestinian photographers, no press arrived today or yesterday, despite the notice going out to everyone. The even more worrying issue is that many diplomats, politicians and journalists seem to believe the official Israeli line that houses built “illegally” should be demolished and there is therefore no issue here.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions would remind everyone that the silence on the part of those who are aware of the situation, probably due to the fact that so much else is happening (that day’s new crisis) is what allows the Municipality, the IDF and the Ministry for the Interior to continue these immoral and dangerous policies which so harm the chances for peace.