Media Mention via Al Jazeera English

Shuafat demolition to tighten ‘Israel’s control over Jerusalem’

Bulldozers tore through the mangled wire and concrete on Thursday, sending clouds of dust into the air while boys and men watched from behind the red barricade tape set up by Israeli police.

"Am I allowed to go through?" a seven-year-old boy asked in a concerned tone.

Sadly, for some, this was just another day living under Israeli military occupation.

"Only God can help us," said a man observing the scene from a chair while eating a dessert.

 'Illegal' construction

Israeli forces had entered the camp on Wednesday, sealed off its entry and exit points, positioned snipers on rooftops and began demolishing 16 shops, affecting the livelihood of more than 60 families.

Demolition notices had been issued to 20 Palestinian shops only a day earlier.

Established in 1965, two years before Israel extended its occupation to East Jerusalem, Shuafat is the only refugee camp in Jerusalem and is home to 23,000 people.

There hasn't been a single building permit issued to residents of the camp since Israel's military occupation began in 1967, forcing them to resort to building without permits and leaving them vulnerable to routine demolitions by Israel, citing the lack of permits.

This demolition is believed to be the largest by Israeli authorities since the camp's establishment.

Changing the 'character of the camp'

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) slammed the demolitions on Wednesday, saying they were part of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's plan to end Shuafat's status as a refugee camp, push out UNRWA, the UN refugee agency, and end the basic services it provides.

Ahmad Abu Holy, head of the PLO's refugee department, accused the Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem of waging war on the camp "under the illegal pretext of building without a permit".

Last month, Barkat announced plans to get rid of UNRWA's services in the city to "end the lie of the Palestinian refugee problem". He said all services operated by UNRWA in East Jerusalem, such as schools, clinics and sports centres, will be transferred to Israeli authorities.

WIthout providing an exact timeframe, an announcement was also made that schools serving 1,800 students would be closed by the end of the current school year.

Barkat said the US decision to cut $300m in aid to UNRWA prompted his decision.

Yara Hawari, Palestine policy fellow at Al-Shabaka, told Al Jazeera that Barkat's statement to lift the camp's refugee status is clear proof "that Israel is accelerating its plan to drastically alter the geographic and demographic reality of Greater Jerusalem".

"It has been emboldened to do so by not only the Trump Administration, which moved the US embassy to the city earlier this year, but also by the majority of the international community which continues to be impotent in the face of such political manoeuvres."

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