Land Research Center - LRC

The occupation municipality forces a Jerusalemite to demolish his own house


Wednesday, April 3rd, Mohammad Zaloum was forced to demolish his own structure in Batn Al-Hawa village in Silwan south Al-Aqsa mosque, after the owner received a demolition order from the municipality on the pretext of building without licenses.

Reportedly, the targeted structure is 1-appartment floor (40 m2) and inhabited by Mohammad alone.

Mohammad Zaloum told LRC reporter:

“The house was built 3 years ago, and I received a demolition order in 2016. I filed a plea in the occupation court, and the court’s sessions continued until April 2nd 2019, in the last session the judge issued an order that complies me to demolish my own structure, before the occupation’s municipality implements the operation and make me pay the costs, which are more than 60,000 NIS.

In order to avoid that fate, I demolished my own structure, and now I am staying with my relatives until I find an asylum. I am divorced, I used to live alone, and I have to take dialysis sessions 3 times weekly.”

Battn Al-Hawa quarter has an area of 5 dunums and 200 meters all of which Atereh Cohanim organization claim to possess. There are 85 families in Battn Al-Hawa quarter- about 1200 Jerusalemites- all of them are subjected to forced transfer. This reveals Israeli policies in ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem indigenous people.

Self-Demolition is a Crime against Humanity:

Definition: When an owner of a structure is forced to demolish his property by himself, it is called 'self demolition' or 'silent demolition'. It used to be carried out in quiet or in silence as the name suggests. But recently, due to their increased number of cases, victims have come to disclose that such type of demolition exists and that it is their only choice and speak out about the inhumanity of the Israeli occupation for forcing such a practice.

This kind of demolition is mainly imposed on Palestinians in Jerusalem in efforts to displace them and Judaize the city.

The Israeli occupation always justifies that type of demolition, which is a blatant contravention of the right to residence and a crime against humanity, on the pretext of unlicensed construction.

[If your house has been built without a building permit, then it is legal and you have to destroy it and remove the wreckage as soon as possible. You also have to take pictures of the destroyed structure and send them to the Inspection Department of the Planning and Construction Committee in the occupying municipality to verify the act. There is a fixed date regarding when you have to carry out the demolition operation and this is a red line you cannot cross. There is a second date set by the municipality court of local affairs to check if you have abided by the demolition order or not. In case you do not comply, the municipality will demolish your residence at your expense. If you cannot pay, you will be jailed, so the lesser of two evils becomes the self-demolition choice.]

LRC field observers kept a close eye on the matter and recorded 137 cases where the owners had to demolish their property by themselves during the past eight years making 1303 civilian citizens, more than half of whom are children, homeless and lacking security and stability.

The following table provides numbers of houses demolished by their owners in occupied Jerusalem (2010-2018):


Number of houses

Area m2

Family members




















































Source: Firsthand field observation- Israeli violations monitoring section- LRC , January 2019.

Negative effects of self demolition on families:

The self or silent demolition causes great pain and feelings of oppression. When the Israeli occupation carries out a demolition operation, the family gets more united in the face of injustice, especially children who become aware of the reality of the occupation. But when the father carries out the demolition, children become confused and view their caretaker as weak and helpless. This may lead to fragmentations, clashes and instability within the family, and children might suffer psychologically and lose trust in the family, society and future. Let alone the loss of money and efforts on the part of the breadwinner and the family.

Objectives of imposing self- demolition on Palestinians by the Israeli occupation:

To kick out Palestinians from the occupied city of Jerusalem so Jews become a majority;

portray Palestinians as self-destructive, demolishing their residences by themselves in a gesture of admitting their wrongdoing;

exonerate the Israeli occupation from accusations of eviction and demolition;

spare the Israeli occupation from complications, confrontations and embarrassments during demolition;

generate money (by fining people thousands of shekels);

conceal the true number of demolition cases;

make negative psychological effects on Palestinian families;

Get rid of the infamous stereotype known for centuries about the Jews that they destroy their own houses by themselves.

What does the occupation do in case the Palestinian owner did not self-demolish his/her own home?

  • The occupation implements the operation in an unexpected time, such as before dawn at 3:00 am.
  •  The occupation forces encircle the area, and neighbors are trapped in their houses until the demolition is completed.
  • The occupation shoots tear gas and rubber bullets towards citizen and neighbors who approach the demolition site.
  • Command the bulldozers’ driver to destroy the surrounding of the targeted structure, which causes partial damages to surrounding houses and stores, and destroys communication, water , electricity and roads’ network, such damages affect the whole neighborhood and incur large losses.

During the demolition operation the occupation acts as the following:

  • Renting a demolition expert, and workers to empty the house (on the owners’ expenses).
  • Assigning an army force and police dogs.
  •   During emptying the house, workers destroy furniture and properties on purpose.
  • Police dogs attack citizens who approach the demolition site.
  • Assaulting family members – who live in the demolished house- and arresting some/ or all of them.

Later on, they serve a demolition bill to the family that contains the following expenses:

  • The costs of the demolition expert and workers.
  • The costs of the army forces.
  • The costs of the police dogs.
  • Costs for risk.
  • An order to remove the remains before 48 hours, to avoid another fine.
  • A high fine as the owner did not obey the municipality order and demolished his own home.