Despite Palestinian protests and international criticism, Israeli bulldozers with hundreds of soldiers and police officers went to the Palestinian village of Sur Baher on Monday to demolish about 100 homes in the Wadi al-Hummus area near the Separation Wall.
The Israeli military looks at the houses near the barrier that crosses the occupied West Bank and is locally referred to by the Palestinians as the "apartheid wall" – a security risk.
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of the military last month and set Monday as the deadline for the demolition of houses – an act the Palestinians will call a precedent for other cities along the route of the barrier, the Hundreds of kilometers around and through the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Palestinians accuse Israel of using security as a pretext to expel them from the area as part of a long-term effort to expand settlements. All settlements in occupied Palestinian territories are illegal under international law.
They also point out that most of the buildings in the Wadi al-Hummus area, located within Sur Baher, are under the Palestinian Authority and civilian control of the Oslo Accords.
"Watching their house be torn apart"
The sprawling village of Sur Baher borders the border between occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Rob Matheson of Al Jazeera said this was a "very gloomy and sad day" for many residents.
"We heard very loud bangs from a building right next door o where we are now, and that was a big mechanical excavator that demolished part of the roof of this building where two families lived until this morning," said he.
"We understand that one of the family's father sat in a chair in the street below us and watched his house being torn apart."
Matheson said, on the other side of the separation wall, a crane has chunks out taken the side of a building with a big mechanical claw.
"Right behind me is an unfinished building where demolition workers drill holes in the wall," he said. "We know they'll use explosives there to collapse the building."
Sur Baher, a Palestinian village on the outskirts of occupied East Jerusalem, was conquered by Israel in 1967 and occupied the war.
The imminent demolition is the final round of protracted confrontations over the future of Jerusalem, home to places sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
The inhabitants said they were homeless. The owners said they had received planning permission from the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
"When the house is demolished, we will be on the streets." Ismail Abadiyeh, 42, who lives in one of his family-threatened buildings, including four children, told the diplomat last week.
However, the Israeli Supreme Court declared that the structures violated a building ban.
"Hundreds of Soldiers"
Israeli forces were severed early Monday the wire fence near the village to facilitate access to the buildings.
Floodlight illuminates a partially multi-storey building where dozens of vehicles brought police and soldiers wearing helmets around.
They were filmed and photographed by Palestinian, Israeli and international activists who tried to stop the demolition.
"Since 2 o'clock in the morning, they have forcibly evicted people from their homes and planted explosives in the homes they want to destroy, here are hundreds of soldiers," said Hamada Hamada, a community leader in one of the threatened areas.
"Empower Israeli Occupation Forces"
Threatened structures lie in areas they should control. The buildings were originally all approved and approved by the Palestinian Authority, which manages this part of the district.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) issued a statement accusing the Israeli court of "setting a precedent that will allow the Israeli occupation forces to demolish numerous Palestinian buildings located in the immediate vicinity of the Palestinian Authority Wall are located ".
Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, and other UN officials called on the Israeli authorities to stop the demolition plans last week. They said 17 Palestinians face plans to move to Level 10 buildings, including dozens of apartments.
The European Union issued a statement saying, "The continuation of this policy undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect of a lasting peace."
However, the Israeli Supreme Court said that a construction near the wall could provide protection for attackers. The Israeli military did not comment directly on Monday and said it was reviewing the reports.
Israel describes the separation wall – which is expected to be 720 km after its completion – with the containment of Palestinian suicide bombers, which reached their peak in 2002 and 2003. Palestinians call it a land grab, annexing parts of the West Bank, including Israeli settlements.
In some areas of Jerusalem and the West Bank, the wall is a high concrete wall, but in Sur Baher it consists of two wire-fenced patrol streets separated by a military and protected by watchtowers and electronic sensors.