SUR BAHER, West Bank - The Israeli army has begun widespread demolitions in the West Bank on the edge of East Jerusalem.
International condemnation and protests by Palestinians have been ignored as Israeli forces began pulling apart buildings near a military barrier on Monday, according to the Reuters Thomson news agency.
Hundreds of Israeli soldiers brought bulldozers into the area while police held off protesters. The village being targeted is Sur Baher, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Reuters said Israeli forces cut through a wire section of the barrier in Sur Baher under cover of darkness early on Monday, and began clearing residents from the area.
Floodlights lit up the area as dozens of vehicles brought helmeted security forces into the village, the news agency said.
After first light, mechanical diggers began destroying a two-storey house as soldiers moved through several floors of a partly constructed multi-storey building nearby.
"Since 2:00am they have been evacuating people from their homes by force and they have started planting explosives in the homes they want to destroy," Hamada Hamada, a community leader in Sur Baher told Reuters on Monday.
The work was filmed and photographed by Palestinian, Israeli and international activists who had mobilized to try and stop the demolition.
Israel's Supreme Court ruled in June that the structures violated a construction ban. The deadline for residents to remove the affected buildings, or parts of them, expired on Friday, the Reuters report said.
Some Sur Baher residents said they would be made homeless.
Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, and other UN officials called on the Israeli authorities last week to halt the demolition plans. They said 17 Palestinians faced displacement from the plans to level 10 buildings, including dozens of apartments.
The demolitions however have the approvavl of the Israeli Supreme Court which ruled unanimously in favor of demolition. "The petitioners took the law into their own hands when they began and continued building structures without receiving a special permit from the military commander," the court found.