A family blinded by injustice

by EAs Siphiwe and Johanna, Jerusalem team, 

Nureddin Amro’s home was one of 531 Palestinian houses to be demolished by Israeli forces last year. But Nur and his family aren’t just statistics. Like every other family who experience demolitions they have their own unique story, and are still living with the consequences today; more than a year later.  

08.06.16, Wadi al Joz, Nur Amro, EAPPI/Siphiwe

08.06.16, Wadi al Joz, Nur Amro, EAPPI/Siphiwe

On the 31 of March, Nur Amro, his wife and three children were preparing to go for a picnic, when Israeli soldiers arrived at their house. The soldiers reminded the family of an order that was issued two months ago for the community to clean up the street. The Amro family along with others in the community had tidied the street as requested. “(So) when the soldiers came we were shocked; we didn’t know what they wanted. So they told us they had an order to demolish a fence in front mine and my brother’s house.”

Nur recounts the morning his home was demolished as we sit in one of two rooms which were left standing. [1] On the way in we passed by the rubble outside, and Nur showed us where his instruments had been, before they were destroyed by the house walls falling in on them.

After talking to the soldiers, Nur went to his brother side of the house to tell him that the soilders were going to demolish his fence.

“Me and my wife were gathering near my brother’s house outside the wall and we didn’t know that they were demolishing the house. And my wife came from there, when she looked through the window, she got shocked and collapsed when she saw that they demolishing the house, furniture and instruments”.

Both Nur and his brother are blind, and when they asked the soldiers to show them a demolition order, witnesses say that the soldiers showed them a blank piece of paper, and told them it was an official court order. The soldiers and the bulldozer operators proceeded to demolish a portion of their home; Nur and his family have been living in the ruins of their home ever since.

What is unusual about the Amro families’ case, is that the Israeli authorities issued no demolition orders in advance of the demolition. This would have at least given the family the opportunity to challenge the decision in court. The Amro family were not given this chance. Another thing which is unusual about this case is that the soldiers tried to deceive Nur into thinking that they were going to demolish the fence outside when in fact they had other plans.

Although the story of Nur and his family is particularly tragic, every demolition of a home brings trauma to the family. Nur tells us how his three children are still traumatised, and are scared every time soldiers come to the neighbourhood. But Nur who spends his days teaching visually impaired children, is still keeping his spirits up

Sadly, demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are on the rise. According to a UNOCHA report, since the beginning of 2016, the total number of structures targeted and individuals displaced now exceeds the total for all of 2015. [4]

Haaretz reports that between 2012 and 2015, only 7% of the applications for building permits have been granted for Palestinian neighbourhoods, even though 40% of Jerusalem’s population live in the area [5] [6]. The extremely low rate of approval for building permits does not match the growth of the Palestinian population, and consequently people often resort to building without permits issued by the Israeli authorities. Once a demolition order has been issued, residents have no way of knowing if their house will be demolished within days or years. Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that occupying powers are prohibited from destroying property unless it is a military necessity. [7]

More information:

OCHA: East Jerusalem key humanitarian concerns

Washington Post: Israel wrecked my home. Now it wants my land.

ICHAD: FAQ’s – Home Demolitions

B’Tselem: National parks in the process of planning in East Jerusalem

Haaretz: Only 7% of Jerusalem Building Permits Go to Palestinian Neighborhoods


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