Bulldozers heavily escorted by Israeli forces on Wednesday demolished 20 stores and an ancient structure in Shufat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, sources told Ma’an.
Locals said large numbers of Israeli police officers and troops from various divisions raided the camp and deployed in the streets and on rooftops.
Troops then surrounded an ancient building known as the Cola building and all adjacent stores, denying local residents access to the area before blowing up the main doors of all the stores.
The building and the stores belong to the Dajani family from Jerusalem. One of the owners, Abu al-Walid Dajani, told Ma’an Israeli authorities carried out the demolition without notifying the owners. He said excavators demolished the building and 20 adjacent stores.
The area where the demolitions took place measures about 800 square meters, Dajani said.
The building and the stores were built in 1963, he added. It had been populated and the stores were used as shops until the mid-1980s when the First Intifada broke out. Israeli authorities then prevented the family from using the structures.
Dajani denied Israeli claims that the building and the stores were built without permits. He said the Dajani family originally owned 11,500 square meters in Shufat camp before Israel confiscated 2,000 square meters for the construction of the separation wall. In 2008, Israel confiscated 6,000 square meters more, on which they set up a military checkpoint.
In 2012, Israeli forces confiscated the rest of the land along with the structures built on it. Dajani attempted to reclaim his land and properties through Israeli courts, including the Supreme Court, to no avail. Courts always cited security pretexts, he told Ma’an.
Israeli authorities ordered him to pay a property tax of 485,000 shekels to the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem, he added.
A spokesman of the Fatah movement in Shufat camp, Thaer Fasfous, told Ma’an that four large excavators demolished the Cola building and 20 stores. He added that 10 of the demolished stores were open and running until the day they were demolished.
Among the functioning stores was a coffee shop, a car repair workshop, a taxi office, a grocery, a chicken butchery, a frozen meat shop, and a shop which sold tree saplings, in addition to two stores used as warehouses for the al-Khatib Supermarket.
During the demolitions, Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets to prevent local residents from assembling, Fasfous said. A nearby school was also evacuated.
Israel rarely grants construction permits to Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and regularly demolishes structures built without permits.
Israeli bulldozers have demolished at least 359 Palestinian structures in the West Bank so far in 2014, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
During the 1967 war, Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan, occupied it, and later annexed it in a move never recognized abroad.
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)