UN, France Condemn Israel’s Demolition of Homes in Palestinian-controlled East Jerusalem Area

Palestinian prime minister calls demolition a ‘war crime and a crime against humanity,’ says he will file a complaint to the International Criminal Court.

Jack Khoury and Amira Hass Jul 22, 2019 7:12

Israeli forces patrol the village of Sur Baher, July 22, 2019.
Israeli forces patrol the village of Sur Baher, July 22, 2019.Mussa Qawasma/Reuters

The United Nations and France condemned on Monday Israel’s demolition of 70 homes in an East Jerusalem neighborhood under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

In an official statement released by Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, Gwyn Lewis, the Director of West Bank Operations for UNRWA and James Heenan, the Head of the UN Human Rights Office in the occupied Palestinian territory, they expressed “sadness” over the demolition in the village of Sur Baher, located on the edge of the Wadi Hummus neighborhood. 

“Israel’s policy of destroying Palestinian property is not compatible with its obligations under international humanitarian law,” the statement said.skip – Israel Demolishes 70 Homes in Palestinian-controlled East Jerusalem Neighborhood

The demolition followed a legal challenge to the Defense Ministry, which issued an order to evacuate the homes, deeming the village too close to the West Bank separation barrier.skip – Jamie McGoldrick

The spokesperson of the Israeli Foreign Ministry responded to the criticism on Monday, taking to Twitter to state that “Israel has the full right to demolish the illegal buildings adjacent to the security fence in Sur Baher. This was carried out following a High Court of Justie ruling that these constructions constitute a security danger to Israeli civilians.” 

Nizan Amer also wrote: “This is a deliberate provocation by the Palestinian Authority.”

Israeli and international activists said Israeli forces deployed in the neighborhood at dawn, evacuating one family from one of the buildings, as well as activists who protested the move.

Israeli security forces tearing down one of the Palestinian buildings in the West Bank village of Dar Salah, July 22, 2019.
Israeli security forces tearing down one of the Palestinian buildings in the West Bank village of Dar Salah, July 22, 2019. AFP

skip – Spokesperson of Israeli Foreign Ministry explains demolition of Sur Baher homes.

Two hours prior to the demolition, activists said they saw Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers placing explosives in an eight-stories building set for demolition. Later, the forces removed furniture and vehicles that were parked next to the buildings.

“Among other things, the destruction of private property in occupied territory is only permissible where rendered absolutely necessary for military operations, which is not applicable,” the UN added.

France’s foreign ministry also issued a statement in response to the demolition saying: “France condemns the demolition by the Israeli army of several buildings in the area of Wadi al Hummus, in the southeast of Jerusalem.” 

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the Palestinians would complain to the International Criminal Court about the demolitions in Sur Baher. 

“The cabinet condemns this grave aggression. This is a continuation of the forced displacement of the people of Jerusalem from their homes and lands –  a war crime and a crime against humanity,” Shtayyeh said. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that the Palestinian leadership will convene for a series of meetings in the coming days. “Abu Mazen [Abbas] has already warned several times of the consequences of such acts and that the Palestinian Authority cannot continue to maintain agreements with Israel as long as Israel does not do so,” he added.

The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also issued a statement condemning the demolition, calling on the Israeli government to immediately stop such actions that. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Sufian Al-Qudat said “Israel’s actions include building settlements and paving roads for the settlers, which are contrary to international law and to all the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

According to Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, some 700 police and 200 soldiers were involved in the demolition. 

Noa Landau contributed to this report.

Jack Khoury

Haaretz Correspondent