World News

Israel blows up "illegally built" Palestinian home

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli security forces blew up a Palestinian four-storey apartment block near East Jerusalem on Monday because Israel said some of the structure had been built without planning permission.

An Israeli bulldozer demolishes a building in Beit Hanina, on the edge of Jerusalem, July 28, 2008. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

An Israeli police spokesman said security forces had surrounded the structure in the Palestinian suburb of Beit Hanina north of central Jerusalem, before bulldozers began preparing it for demolition. It was blown up in the evening.

“The operation began in the early hours of the morning, the owners were evacuated and the explosion was carried out in the evening once everybody was clear from danger,” he said.

Dozens of local residents and their supporters protested against the demolition and called on Palestinian officials for help.

Palestinians complain that Israel unfairly denies building permits to Arabs in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, while encouraging Jews to build there.

The police spokesman said the demolition went ahead after a petition the owners had lodged with Israel’s Supreme Court had failed.

“About 1,500 people arrived at 4 a.m. and said ‘you have two or three minutes to get out, leave everything behind’,” house dweller Wael Awida told Israel’s Channel 1 television.

Armoured bulldozers have demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes in the past decade on the grounds they have been built without permission.

In the past, the family homes of suicide bombers and other attackers have also been razed.

This has been rarer following a sharp decline in such attacks and a 2005 challenge to the practice by human rights groups in Israel’s Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government has taken legal advice paving the way for demolition of homes belonging to the families of Palestinians who attack Israelis.