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10 Palestinian homes demolished in Israeli city, prompting mayor to resign

Jan. 10, 2017 5:35 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 11, 2017 11:16 P.M.)
QALANSAWE (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities demolished 10 homes belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel in the city of Qalansawe in central Israel on Tuesday morning, prompting a defeated mayor to resign after Israeli authorities refused for decades to approve the city’s master plan.

Local sources told Ma’an the devastating demolition campaign sparked clashes between Israeli police and residents.

Mayor Abd al-Basit Mansour visited the area along with members of the municipal council and announced he would resign from his post, as Israeli bulldozers razed the homes to ground.

Mansour told reporters that, "We have been waiting for approval of a master plan for twenty years, but our request fell on deaf ears.”

“As head of the Qalansawe municipality, who doesn’t have the power to change anything, I decided to send my resignation to the Ministry of Interior.”

Dozens of locals crowded in the area in an attempt to prevent bulldozers from demolishing the structures, but Israeli police officers dispersed them.

One homeowner described the demolition as part of Israel’s policy of "oppression, injustice, and displacement."

Qalansawe resident Ashraf Abu Ali criticized leaders of Palestinian communities in Israel. "What have they done to prevent demolitions in the Arab communities?" he asked, asserting that Palestinian citizens of Israel would "remain under threat as long as master plans and allocating land for construction are dealt with so recklessly."

Another owner of one of the demolished houses, Hassuna Makhlouf, said he held Qalansawe’s mayor responsible, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He told Ma’an that Israeli police officers treated homeowners “violently” during the demolition raid.

Resident of the town Abd al-Rahim Odeh said large numbers of Israeli police officers and more than 20 bulldozers stormed Qalansawe "in an unprecedented act of barbarism.”

Local sources said Israeli police detained a young man from Qalansawe during clashes that broke out in the area.

Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld confirmed to Ma'an that the demolitions took place “based on a court order,” amid heavy police presence in and around the area. However, he said that no detentions or clashes occurred, "as far as I know."

Commenting on the demolitions, Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said that the "complex campaign reflects equal law enforcement in Israel as it should be," according to Hebrew-language media reports.

Last month, Netanyahu reportedly held meetings, attended by Erdan, in which the prime minister instructed officials to “work to issue demolition orders for the illegal structures, located in Arab town in northern and southern Israel, as well as in eastern Jerusalem.”

“There will be no double standards regarding construction,” Israeli media quoted Netanyahu as saying. “There will be equal enforcement of the law in Israel for both Jews and Arabs.”

Earlier in December, Netanyahu commented on the Supreme Court-ordered demolition of the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona in the occupied West Bank by assuring the soon-to-be displaced settlers that he would commit to “enforcing laws” on “illegal construction” in Israel, referring primarily to Palestinian communities that are often forced to build without Israeli-issued building permits.

The Jerusalem municipality also vowed to demolish scores of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem as a result of the ruling to dismantle Amona.

Bedouin communities in the southern Israeli Negev region said a wave of home demolitions there came as a direct retaliation from the impending evacuation of Amona.

According to Palestinian NGO Adalah, only 4.6 percent of the housing tenders published by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) in 2015 were dedicated to Palestinian communities in Israel, although the population comprises 20 percent of the population.

The Palestinian population in Israel requires 13,000 new housing units per year, yet in practice only 7,000 housing units are built, mostly by means of private, self-construction, according to the group.

“As a result of the government's widespread failure to authorize a sufficient number of building permits in Arab communities, the phenomenon of ‘illegal’ home construction is widespread as residents seek to house expanding populations,” Adalah has said.

“The housing shortage in Arab communities in Israel is not the result of specific failures or unintentional neglect on the part of state authorities. It is instead the product of a systematic and deliberate policy since 1948 that has viewed Palestinian citizens as enemies and aliens.”
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