Denied permits, Palestinians raze own homes in Jerusalem

Denied permits, Palestinians raze own homes in Jerusalem
A relative of the Palestinian Shalalda family watches as an excavator demolishes their family home in Al-Tur in East Jerusalem. The Israeli authorities regularly raze Palestinian homes on their own lands if they lack construction permits. (AFP)
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Updated 31 August 2020

Denied permits, Palestinians raze own homes in Jerusalem

Denied permits, Palestinians raze own homes in Jerusalem
  • The court, which ruled the structure illegal because it was built without a permit, fined him 60,000 shekels for the offense

JERUSALEM: Palestinian Alaa Borqan preferred to tear down his own house in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem after a court ruled that it was constructed illegally and must be demolished.
The 35-year-old was given two options: To destroy his four-bedroom home in the Jabal Mukaber neighborhood himself, or to let the city council do it and then send him the bill.
The Israeli authorities regularly raze homes built by Palestinians on their own lands in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank if they lack Israeli construction permits.
The catch, according to an UN study, is that such permits are “virtually impossible” to obtain and the result is a chronic housing shortage.
“I applied to city hall for a building permit, but without success,” Borqan told AFP.
“I spent around 75,000 shekels ($22,000) on legal fees and on a ground survey,” he said.
Ben Avrahami, an adviser to the city authorities on East Jerusalem, said that every case is handled strictly according to the law.
“The demolitions are being carried out by order of an Israeli court and are subject to careful legal scrutiny,” he said.
Borqan, a father of four, however said he was dismayed after he hired a bulldozer that tore down his own house in front of his eyes.
He said he had invested all his savings in the building, taking on a debt of 800,000 shekels and putting in four years of work.
The court, which ruled the structure illegal because it was built without a permit, fined him 60,000 shekels for the offense.
He now lives with his family in a house that he rents for 2,800 shekels a month.
Standing in the rubble of his former house, he recounted “how difficult it is to demolish (a home) with one’s own hands.”
According to city hall, 44 houses have been demolished in East Jerusalem since the start of this year.
Some owners prefer to raze their homes themselves to avoid having to pay sometimes thousands of shekels to the city’s demolition crews.
Under Israeli occupation since the 1967 Six-Day War, East Jerusalem is home to around 300,000 Palestinians and 200,000 Jewish settlers.
Palestinians charge that the true purpose of the permit regime is to empty the city of its Palestinian inhabitants. The UN’s Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted in an April 2019 report that in East Jerusalem “a restrictive planning regime applied by Israel makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits.”
“At least one-third of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack an Israeli-issued building permit, potentially placing over 100,000 residents at risk of displacement,” it added.
OCHA says that only 13 percent of east Jerusalem is designated for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built up, while 35 percent has been allocated to Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.
According to the director of the Jerusalem Center for Economic and Social Rights, Ziad Hammuri, the self-demolitions are “humiliating” and “have considerable psychological effects” on families, in addition to heavy financial costs.
But many Palestinians still prefer to demolish their property themselves, fearing arrest if they are unable to pay the city’s demolition bill or fines.
On July 2, the Shalalda family also demolished their home, a two-bedroomed apartment in A-Tur.
It is “very difficult, a dream has been destroyed,” lamented Sara Shalalda, a mother of six.
“We were about to move in, we didn’t want to have to pay rent anymore.”
According to OCHA, 65 children were displaced and 85 others variously affected by self-demolitions in east Jerusalem in the first six months of the year.
Palestinians lack 30,000 to 40,000 housing units, rents are high, and building permits are expensive, said Mahmud Zahaykeh of the Jerusalem Housing Union.
“The average rent is $800 and a building permit for an apartment can cost $50,000,” he added.
“Only 20 percent of residents obtain permits, and the process can take five years.”
Avrahami says the city grants around 250 building permits to Palestinians each year.
Borqan had hoped to be among the lucky ones but his hopes were dashed.
“They don’t want us to stay,” he said, referring to Israel.
“But we are not going to move.”


Jordanian passenger jet forced into emergency landing

Jordanian passenger jet forced into emergency landing
Updated 47 sec ago

Jordanian passenger jet forced into emergency landing

Jordanian passenger jet forced into emergency landing
  • The airline is currently working with the concerned authorities to determine the reason behind the error, local media said

DUBAI: Royal Jordanian Airlines announced that its flight RJ 508 from Cairo to Amman was forced Monday into an emergency landing at Amman's Queen Alia International Airport 10 minutes before the scheduled landing time.

The airline said in a statement that it successfully completed the landing of the jet on the main runway, and all 133 passengers and six crew members of the flight were evacuated transferred to the airport.

The airline is currently working with the concerned authorities to determine the reason behind the error, local media said. 

 


UAE rolls out Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 3-17

UAE rolls out Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 3-17
Updated 11 min 19 sec ago

UAE rolls out Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 3-17

UAE rolls out Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 3-17
  • The Gulf state, which has among the world’s highest immunization rates, was already providing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12-15

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates will start providing China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 3-17, the UAE government said on Twitter on Monday.
It cited the health ministry as saying the decision comes after clinical trials and extensive evaluations, without providing any details. Authorities said in June the trial would monitor the immune response of 900 children.
The Gulf state, which has among the world’s highest immunization rates, was already providing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12-15.
The health ministry said on Sunday that 78.95 percent of the UAE population of roughly 9 million had received one vaccine dose while 70.57 percent had been fully vaccinated.
The UAE, the region’s tourism and trade hub, registered 1,519 new coronavirus infections on Sunday to take its total to 682,377 cases and 1,951 deaths. It does not provide a breakdown for each of its seven emirates.
It led Phase III clinical trials of the vaccine produced by China’s state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm and has started manufacturing it under a joint venture between Sinopharm and Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42.


Lebanon implements COVID-19 health pass

Lebanon implements COVID-19 health pass
Updated 02 August 2021

Lebanon implements COVID-19 health pass

Lebanon implements COVID-19 health pass
  • The new rules go into effect Monday, at the peak of Lebanon’s summer tourist season while daily infections hover near the 1,000 mark

DUBAI: Lebanon will implement entry restrictions starting this week to tourist establishments such as beaches, bars and restaurants in a bid to curb a spike in COVID-19 infections. 

Anyone aged 16 and older must show a COVID-19 vaccination certificate, a recent negative coronavirus test or a document proving a previous infection to gain entry, the health ministry said last week. 

The ministry added that workers at those sites who have not received the vaccine will have to perform a PCR test every 72 hours.

The new rules go into effect Monday, at the peak of Lebanon’s summer tourist season while daily infections hover near the 1,000 mark.


Fire crews battle Turkish wildfires at holiday destinations

While authorities say they are investigating whether the fires may have started as ‘sabotage’ by outlawed Kurdish militants, experts mostly point to the climate crisis. (AP)
While authorities say they are investigating whether the fires may have started as ‘sabotage’ by outlawed Kurdish militants, experts mostly point to the climate crisis. (AP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Fire crews battle Turkish wildfires at holiday destinations

While authorities say they are investigating whether the fires may have started as ‘sabotage’ by outlawed Kurdish militants, experts mostly point to the climate crisis. (AP)
  • Panic-stricken tourists were evacuated Saturday from some hotels in Bodrum as a fire rolled down the hill toward the seashore

ISTANBUL: Wildfires in the Turkish holiday beach destinations of Antalya and Mugla raged on Sunday as firefighters worked to battle the blazes for a fifth day. As some residents boarded boats to flee the danger, coast guard ships waited in the sea in case a bigger evacuation was needed.
Police water cannons, usually used to control riots, assisted helicopters and fire trucks in a village of Mugla’s popular district of Bodrum to fight fires. Turkish television showed fires had reignited after being extinguished earlier, with blazes and smoke approaching a village.
Civilians were trying to help, hoping to protect homes and olive groves, but some houses were already damaged. Coast guard and private boats were helping some residents evacuate by sea.
Fires in Marmaris, another tourist destination in Mugla, continued Sunday as strong winds made firefighting efforts more difficult. Residents of villages around Marmaris pleaded for more help on social media. Tourists and some residents were boarding boats with their suitcases as others waited anxiously to see if the fire would come down to the shore. Fires were also encroaching on a village near the town of Manavgat, where helicopters were trying to extinguish blazes. The minister of forestry and agriculture, Bekir Pakdemirli, tweeted that 107 wildfires were “under control” across Turkey. His list showed that, since Wednesday, wildfires had ignited in 32 provinces. The wildfire death toll rose to eight on Sunday.
Panic-stricken tourists were evacuated Saturday from some hotels in Bodrum as a fire rolled down the hill toward the seashore. Russian media reported that 100 Russian tourists were among those evacuated. While Turkish authorities say they are investigating whether the fires may have started as “sabotage” by outlawed Kurdish militants, experts mostly point to the climate crisis, as seen by the drastic increases in temperatures along with accidents caused by people.
Turkey’s president said Saturday that one of the fires was started by children. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toured some of the affected areas on Saturday and promised to help residents rebuild their homes. But social media users criticized him for arriving in Marmaris in a massive convoy that affected traffic and throwing bags of tea from the top of his bus to people gathered to hear him speak.
A heatwave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from North Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including on the Italian island of Sicily and in western Greece, where some residents had to be evacuated by boat to escape the flames.
Temperatures in Turkey and nearby countries in southeast Europe are expected to climb to 42 degrees Celsius on Monday in many cities and towns. Antalya was already registering 41 degrees Celsius on Sunday.
Meanwhile, in Turkey’s eastern Van province, floods destroyed at least six houses after a small river overflowed amid heavy rains. Floods in northern Turkey last month killed at least six people.


Assad army steps up offensive in restive southern city

Assad army steps up offensive in restive southern city
Updated 02 August 2021

Assad army steps up offensive in restive southern city

Assad army steps up offensive in restive southern city
  • The rebels disrupted traffic along the Damascus-Daraa highway leading to the border with Jordan

AMMAN: Syrian regime troops stepped up shelling of an opposition enclave in the southern city of Daraa in a bid to assert control over an area that has defied state authority since it was retaken three years ago, witnesses, the army and residents said.

An army assault on the old quarter of Daraa suffered a blow on Thursday when rebels mounted a counteroffensive across the province, capturing dozens of troops.

The army has since sent hundreds of elite troops, dozens of tanks and armored vehicles to storm the enclave where peaceful protests against Assad family rule began in 2011 and were met by deadly force before spreading across the country.

The rebels disrupted traffic along the Damascus-Daraa highway leading to the border with Jordan, which closed the crossing point on Sunday.

The Syrian regime troops, aided by Russian air power and Iranian militias, retook control of the province that borders Jordan and Israel’s Golan Heights in 2018.

Russian-brokered deals at the time forced rebels to hand over heavy weapons but kept the army from entering many towns including the old quarter of the provincial capital known as Daraa Al-Balaad.

The Syrian regime troops on Sunday blamed what they called terrorists for foiling several rounds of negotiations with opposition figures since last week to allow the army to set up checkpoints in the enclave.

The opposition insists the agreement allowed only civilian control, local officials say.

“The regime wants to end what they see as a living symbol of the revolt against it. If they silence it by returning the army they will subjugate the whole Hauran region,” Abu Jehad al Horani, an opposition official, said from inside the enclave.

Damascus-based relief bodies said at least 2,000 families fled their homes since the fighting began on Thursday.