The European Union on Monday urged Israel to immediately halt the razing of Palestinian homes on the edge of Jerusalem, saying it undermined hope for a lasting peace in the region.
“In line with the E.U.’s long-standing position, we expect the Israeli authorities to immediately halt the ongoing demolitions,” said a spokesman for the E.U.’s foreign policy arm, which represents the bloc’s 28 member states.
“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.”
Israel earlier Monday bulldozed a number of Palestinian homes it considers illegal south of Jerusalem.
The Palestinians immediately slammed the demolitions in the Sur Baher area which straddles the West Bank and Jerusalem, but Israel has defended the move as essential to its security.
Israel occupied 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.
The E.U. backed the Palestinian view that in the land in question, according to the Oslo peace accords, “all civil issues are under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.”
But Israel claimed the buildings were built too close to the separation barrier that it built in the early 2000s to stop attacks from the West Bank.
Israel began construction of the barrier during the bloody second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, and says it is necessary to protect against attacks.
Palestinians see it as an “apartheid wall” and accuse Israel of using security as a pretext to force them out of the area as part of long-term efforts to expand settlements and roads linking them.
“We Will be on the Street”
Before dawn on Monday, hundreds of Israeli police and soldiers sealed off buildings in the area close to the Israeli security barrier which cuts off the occupied West Bank, an AFP journalist said.
Residents and activists were dragged out of the homes, many of which were still under construction.
Earthmovers then demolished at least three multi-story buildings, the journalist said. They appeared to be preparing to destroy an eight-story building under construction at Monday lunchtime.
One man yelled “I want to die here”, after being forced out.
BREAKING: Demolition of Sur Baher neighborhood un #Jerusalem begins after Israeli forces forcibly evicted dozens of Palestinian families at dawn https://t.co/Q29PugCHEm #Israel #Jerusalem pic.twitter.com/51jsf2WpG9
— Palestine in the UK (@PalMissionUK) July 22, 2019
Ismail Abadiyeh, who lived in one of the buildings destroyed, said he and his family would be left homeless.
“We will be on the street,” he told AFP.
“What is painfully happening here is the biggest and most dangerous demolition operation outside of war operations,” Walid Asaf, the Palestinian minister in charge of monitoring Israeli settlements, said in a video from the site.
On June 18, residents in Sur Baher received a 30-day notice from Israeli authorities informing them of their intent to demolish the homes.
The U.N. humanitarian affairs agency OCHA, says the ruling affects 10 buildings already built or under construction, including around 70 apartments.
The U.N. has warned ahead of the demolitions that “displacement, particularly for the most vulnerable, is traumatic and has lasting consequences.”
Residents fear another 100 buildings in the area in a similar situation could be at risk in the near future.
In a statement, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas called on the “international community to intervene immediately to stop this aggression against our people.”
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