Hundreds of Israeli troops, accompanied by bulldozers, have begun demolishing homes in the Palestinian village of Sur Baher despite Palestinian protests and international criticism.
Residents of the village’s Wadi al-Hummus neighbourhood told local media on Monday that 16 residential buildings, which hold around 100 apartments, were being targeted.
“Preparations started past midnight as hundreds of armed Israeli occupying soldiers/ bulldozers stormed the town. Families threatened with demolitions were woken up/ moved out of their homes,” read a tweet by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
The Israeli military considers the homes, which are close to an Israeli separation wall that crisscrosses the occupied West Bank, a security risk.
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favour of the military last month, ending a seven-year legal battle, and set Monday as the deadline to knock down the homes. Palestinians say the act will set a precedent for other towns along the route of the barrier, which runs for hundreds of kilometres around and through the occupied West Bank.
Al Jazeera’s Rob Matheson, reporting from the demolition area, said the Israeli action began around 7:15am local time (04:15 GMT).
“We heard very loud bangs coming from a building right next door to where we are now. It was from a large mechanical digger that was ripping off part of the roof of a building that was home up until this morning to two families,” he said.
“The father of one of the families has been sitting on a chair in the street watching his home being torn apart.”
The sprawling village of Sur Baher straddles the line between occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. It was captured and occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.