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Streets remain closed as army continues demolition attempts in Beit Safafa

Ma’an News

17 March 2009

Israeli forces blocked off the Gilo road beside Bait Safafa Tuesday as soldiers prepared to destroy the sixth floor of a multi-family home in East Jerusalem.

Demolition began in the late hours of the morning, with crews removing the tile roof of the building and knocking down walls on the Ar-Rakhma street building. The demolition stalled when demolition workers attempted to dismantle the elevator to the top floor. Eyewitnesses said several methods of destruction were attempted, but none have yet been successful.

Earlier in the day armed soldiers blocked the entrances to both the Gilo and Beit Safafa streets, prohibiting press from entering the area and warning residents that if they leave with their cars they will not be permitted to re-enter the area. Others are able to enter the area but only on foot.

Soldiers have prevented those who live in the building from coming within 200 meters of the site. Those who wish to remove personal items from their homes in advance of the demolition are being removed from the area.

The six-story building belongs to Mahfoudh Abu Khalaf, who is reportedly refusing to leave the building, which houses 50 people, from several different families. Some were seen taking suitcases and furniture out of the building.

The first three floors of the building were built with permits, but the fourth, fifth and sixth were denied permits and are considered illegal. The sixth floor is home to seven people.

Israeli soldiers told locals that only the sixth floor will be destroyed Tuesday, though the other two have demolition orders pending. They have been assured that special equipment will be used to ensure that only the top floor of the building will be destroyed.

Witnesses said it was likely the demolition would damage the other floors of the home.