WADI HUMMUS, West Bank – The house Palestinian Akran Jawahda was going to live in with his family became a mountain of rubble on Monday as Israel began its first wide-scale demolition operation in territory exclusively under the Palestinian jurisdiction.
Jawahda started to build the house in 2014 after being granted permission by the Palestinian National Authority, which runs the neighborhood of Wadi Hummus, which despite being close to East Jerusalem, was not annexed in 1980 as was the rest of the city.
The destruction of 12 buildings consisting of 70 apartments is dangerous as it sets a precedent, Walid Assaf, president of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, told Efe.
It is the largest number of buildings to be destroyed by a demolition order since Israel occupied the Palestinian territory in 1967.
The demolition has impacted more than 350 families and forced around 20 people who already live there out of their homes.
Israel claims that the buildings were too close to the separation barrier, which breaches a military normative issued in 2011 to ban any structures within 250 meters from the barrier as it would represent a security problem.
The United Nations’ agencies in Palestinian territory said Monday that the International Criminal Court ruled the barrier illegal in 2004.
The European Union urged Israel to stop the demolition, which it included in Israel’s settlement polices, such as forced transfers, evictions and confiscations of homes.
The bloc deemed these practices as “illegal in accordance with international law.”
At 4:00 am local time (0100 GMT), military and police forces started to evacuate the buildings and closed the area near the site on both sides of the barrier.
While excavators demolished low buildings, explosives were planted inside higher ones.
In total 12 houses and two foundation bases were destroyed, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, an Israeli military organization managing the occupation, told Efe.
The demolitions were approved by the Israeli Supreme Court, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office said it considered the demolition to be an “Israeli massacre.”