Israeli crews demolish Palestinian homes

Israeli forces have begun demolishing Palestinian homes near the West Bank seperation barrier.
Israeli forces have begun demolishing Palestinian homes near the West Bank seperation barrier.

Israeli work crews began demolishing dozens of Palestinian homes in an east Jerusalem neighbourhood on Monday, in one of the largest operations of its kind in years.

The demolitions capped a years-long legal battle over the buildings, built along the invisible line straddling the city and the occupied West Bank. Israel says the buildings were erected too close to its West Bank separation barrier. Residents say the buildings are on West Bank land, and the Palestinian Authority gave them construction permits.

Israeli work crews moved into the neighbourhood overnight. Massive construction vehicles smashed through the roofs of several buildings, and large excavators were digging through the rubble.

According to the United Nations, some 20 people already living in the buildings were being displaced, while 350 owners of properties that were under construction or not yet inhabited were also affected.

Israel captured east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war. The international community considers both areas to be occupied territory, and the Palestinians seek them as parts of a future independent state.

Israel built its separation barrier in the early 2000s saying it was needed to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching Israel from the West Bank. The Palestinians say the structure is an illegal land grab because it juts into the West Bank in many places.

Sur Baher is one of those places.

Residents began building the apartment buildings in the West Bank part of the village with permission from the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli military ordered the construction to stop, saying it could not permit high-rise buildings so close to the separation barrier.

A recent Supreme Court decision cleared the way for the demolitions.

Australian Associated Press