The demolition is the latest round of protracted wrangling over the future of Jerusalem, home to more than 500,000 Israelis and 300,000 Palestinians, and sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) began demolishing dozens of Palestinian homes near a military barrier on the outskirts of eastern Jerusalem Monday, despite ongoing protests from several residents in the area.
Israeli bulldozers were reportedly accompanied by hundreds of IDF soldiers and military police as they entered the Palestinian village of Sur Baher, which is located at the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem.
Sur Baher was previously captured and occupied by the Israeli Defense Forces following the latter’s victory during the Six-Day War of 1967.
Palestinians has expressed fear that the razing of homes and buildings near the fence will set a precedent for other towns along the route of the barrier, which runs for hundreds of kilometers around and through the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israeli forces cut through a wire section of the barrier in Sur Baher under cover of darkness early on Monday, and began clearing residents from the area.
Floodlights lit up the area as dozens of vehicles brought helmeted security forces into the village.
After first light, mechanical diggers began destroying a two-storey house as soldiers moved through several floors of a partly constructed multi-storey building nearby.
“Since 2 a.m. they have been evacuating people from their homes by force and they have started planting explosives in the homes they want to destroy,” said Hamada Hamada, a community leader in Sur Baher.
The work was filmed and photographed by Palestinian, Israeli and international activists who had mobilized to try and stop the demolition.
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in June that the structures violated a construction ban. The deadline for residents to remove the affected buildings, or parts of them, expired on Friday.
Some Sur Baher residents said they would be made homeless. Owners said they had obtained permission to build from the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.