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J Street is concerned by reports that Israeli authorities have stepped up the demolition of Palestinian homes built without building permits in East Jerusalem – destroying 20 single and multi-family homes on Monday night alone.
According to Israeli media reports, in some cases Palestinian families were given only a few hours of notice that their homes would be demolished before the orders were carried out, leaving them homeless. In some cases, the families did not have time to get all of their possessions out of the buildings before the bulldozers arrived.
According to Ir Amim, some 78 Palestinian homes have been demolished so far this year for violating building regulations — more than the 74 destroyed in all of 2015 and 52 in 2014.
Although we do not condone illegal building, the way that the orders are carried out is extremely worrying, demonstrating an apparent lack of concern for the fate of the families affected. Many residents feel that they have no choice but to build illegally, since the Jerusalem Municipality issues so few permits and generally does not prepare plans for the development of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
The contrast to the treatment of Israeli settlers who build illegal outposts in the West Bank could not be greater. There are around 100 such outposts not authorized by the Israeli government. Yet they are provided with water, electricity and other vital infrastructure and services and protected by the Israel Defense Forces. Ultimately, many are declared retroactively legal.