RAEL-DEMOLISH Jul-11-2001 (620 words) With photos.
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International community condemns demolition of
Palestinian homes
By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service
    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The United States, Russia and some
Israeli legislators were among those condemning
Israeli demolition of homes in the West Bank and Gaza.
    A Methodist minister who works with Catholic Relief
Services in Jerusalem said the actions affected the
``poorest of the poor.''
    In Gaza, three Israeli soldiers and seven
Palestinians were injured July 10 after Israeli
soldiers destroyed 18 houses and six stores in the
Rafiah refugee camp.
    Israeli Defense Forces said the houses were
uninhabited and were being used by Palestinian gunmen
to throw grenades and shoot at Israeli troops. They
said the operation took place in an area bordering
Egypt, where they are allowed to carry out security
operations according to the Oslo agreement.
    Palestinians said that, because of the violence,
families did not sleep in the homes at night but
returned during the day. Palestinians said the action
was an illegal incursion into Palestinian territory.
    The United States called for an immediate halt to the
series of Israeli demolitions, the Associated Press
reported. It said the United States called the actions
``highly provocative'' and said they ``undermine
confidence and trust between the parties.''
    Russia, too, has urged a halt to the demolitions.
    On July 3 several hundred Palestinian families living
in cave villages in the Hebron area were left homeless
after Israeli forces destroyed their dwellings. The
Israelis acted after an Israeli settler was killed in
the area, and the tracks of the gunman led to the cave
area.
    ``Even if the tracks do lead (there), they can't go
and randomly destroy houses,'' said the Rev. Sandra
Olewine, United Methodist liaison at Catholic Relief
Services in Jerusalem. ``That is part of Israel's
collective punishment, and it is a form of
intimidation.''
    Human rights groups, including the Red Cross, have
not yet been able to visit the area to assess the
situation, Rev. Olewine said.
    She also charged that the Israeli government and
settlers in the region have been attempting to expel
area residents from their homes for years and may have
used the murder as an excuse to get rid of the
Palestinians.
    The City of Jerusalem carried out demolition orders
July 9 on 14 houses built in the East Jerusalem
refugee camp of Shuafat, next to the Jewish Jerusalem
neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev, which Palestinians
consider an illegal settlement. The owners had been
given only 24 hours notice and so had no time to seek
legal recourse.
    The city contends that the houses were built without
permits and said they were encroaching on Pisgat Ze'ev
and preventing its further growth.
    Palestinians said they have no other option but to
build without permits, since the city is reluctant to
give them permission to build.
    ``House demolitions have always been a provocative
issue anyway, and in a situation where there has been
a call to decrease violence, taking someone's home out
from under them is not a way to do that,'' said Rev.
Olewine.
    ``It will fuel their anger not only against the
soldiers but also against the whole Israeli
population. How can they (Palestinians) be expected to
talk to their children of restraint when their houses
have been torn down?'' she asked.
    Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres unsuccessfully
petitioned Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to intervene to
stop some of the demolitions.
    Following the July 9 demolitions, 17 Israeli
parliament members from various parties sent a letter
of protest to Sharon. The English-language daily
Ha'aretz newspaper quoted the letter as calling the
action ``provocative and vengeful'' and urging that
the demolitions be stopped. The letter charged
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert with having a ``clear
intention of throwing a match into the highly
flammable situation of East Jerusalem.''
END
07/11/2001 3:54 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2001 Catholic News Service/U.S. Catholic
Conference