Sur Baher:- Hundreds of Israeli troops, accompanied by bulldozers, have begun demolishing homes in the Palestinian village of Sur Baher near the separation wall, despite Palestinian protests and international criticism.

Palestinian residents told local mediainfo-icon on Monday that 16 residential buildings, which hold around 100 apartments, are targeted by the Israeli demolitions.

The Israeli military considers the homes in the village's Wadi al-Hummus neighbourhood - close to the barrier that criss-crosses the occupied West Bank and is locally referred to by Palestinians as the "apartheid wall" - a security risk.

The Israeli Supreme Courtinfo-icon ruled in favour of the military last month and set Monday as the deadline to demolish the homes - an act Palestinians say will set a precedent for other towns along the route of the barrier, which runs for hundreds of kilometres around and through the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

A Journalist, reporting from a site close to the demolition area, said the demolitions marked a "very somber and sad day" for many residents.

"We heard very loud bangs coming from a building right next door to where we are now, and that was a large mechanical digger used to rip off part of the roof of that building, which was home up until this morning to two families," he said.

"We understand that the father of one of the families has been sitting on a chair down in the street below usinfo-icon watching his home being torn apart."

Matheson said that on the other side of the separation wall, a crane has been taking out chunks out of the side of a building with a big mechanical claw.

"Just behind me there's an unfinished building here with the demolition workers drilling holes in the wall," he said. "We understand that they're going to put some explosives in there to try to bring the building down."

Palestinians accuse Israelinfo-icon of using security as a pretext to force them out of the area as part of long-term efforts to expand settlements. All settlements on occupied Palestinian lands are illegal under international law.

They also point out that most of the buildings in Wadi al-Hummus area, located inside Sur Baher, are meant to be under the Palestinian Authority and civilian control under the 1993 Oslo accords.

'Watching his home being torn apart'

The sprawling village of Sur Baher straddles the line between the occupied East Jerusaleminfo-icon and the occupied the West Bank. It was captured and occupied by Israel in the 1967 warinfo-icon.

"What is happening today is a mass displacement of the people living in Wadi al-Hummus, despite the legal and diplomatic attempt to protect their property," Ali al-Obeidi, the chairman of the Wadi al-Hummus Committee told local Maan news agency.

The demolition is the latest round of protracted wrangling over the future of Jerusalem, home to sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Residents said they would be made homeless. Owners said they had obtained permission to build from the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"When the house is demolished, we will be in the streets," Ismail Abadiyeh, 42, who lives in one of the buildings under threat with his family, including four children, told the diplomats last week.

But Israeli Supreme Court said that the structures violated a construction ban.