Saudi authorities say they have demolished the last residential building in the historic center of a restive Shiite town after speeding up the pace of demolitions.

Municipal spokesman Mohammed al-Sufyan said on Wednesday that all 488 homes were demolished in the area of al-Moswara, in the town of al-Awamiya in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province. The town is populated by minority Shiites.

Since the demolitions began in mid-May, violence has spiked between Shiite gunmen and security forces, with around two dozen people killed. U.N. rights experts criticized the demolition for erasing the heritage of the area.

The government says gunmen used al-Moswara's narrow streets as cover and that the old buildings were not safe for residents. The government says it has provided residents with alternative shelter until the area is rebuilt.