Israel demolished a number of Palestinian homes it considers illegal south of Jerusalem early Monday, in a move which has drawn international concern.
The Palestinians immediately slammed the demolitions in the Sur Baher area which straddles the West Bank and Jerusalem, but Israel defended the move as essential to its security.
Before dawn, hundreds of Israeli police and soldiers sealed off buildings in the area close to the Israeli security barrier which cuts off the occupied West Bank, an AFP journalist said.
Residents and activists were dragged out of the homes, many of which were still under construction.
Earthmovers then demolished at least three multi-story buildings, the journalist said. They appeared to be preparing to destroy an eight-story building under construction at Monday lunchtime.
One man yelled "I want to die here", after being forced out. Ismail Abadiyeh, who lived in one of the buildings destroyed, said he and his family would be left homeless.
"We will be on the street," he told AFP.
Israel says the buildings were built too close to the separation barrier that it built to stop attacks from the West Bank. Palestinians accuse Israel of using security as a pretext to force them out of the area as part of long-term efforts to expand settlements and roads linking them.
They also point out that most of the buildings are located in areas meant to be under Palestinian Authority civilian control under the agreements between the Palestinian and Israeli governments.
"What is painfully happening here is the biggest and most dangerous demolition operation outside of war operations," Walid Asaf, the Palestinian minister in charge of monitoring Israeli settlements, said in a video from the site.
In a statement. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called on the "international community to intervene immediately to stop this aggression against our people".