Israel approves 16 demolition orders in Palestinian neighborhood Silwan

Published February 12th, 2017 - 07:41 GMT
In this file photo, an Israeli army bulldozer destroys Palestinian houses in the East Jerusalem area of Silwan. (AFP/File)
In this file photo, an Israeli army bulldozer destroys Palestinian houses in the East Jerusalem area of Silwan. (AFP/File)

Israeli authorities entered the al-Bustan area of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday afternoon and delivered at least 16 demolition notices to several Palestinian families.

A spokesman of a Silwan-based committee formed to fight demolitions, Fakhri Abu Diab, told Ma'an that inspectors from Israel's Jerusalem municipality stormed al-Bustan under military protection and delivered demolition notices.

At least 16 Palestinian homes received the orders, Abu Diab said, where at least 118 individuals reside. The families of al-Ruweidi, al-Qadi, Shaloudi, al-Abbasi, and Hamdan were all reported to have received the orders.

"The occupation is seeking to implement its settlement plans in Jerusalem, including the construction of King David's Park on the ruins of al-Bustan south of Al-Aqsa Mosque," Abu Diab said. "The municipality has been delivering demolition notices from time to time to exert pressure on the residents to coerce them into either leaving the area or accepting the plans of the Israeli occupation."

Majd Gheith, who works with the Silwan-based watchdog Wadi Hilweh Information Center, said that Jerusalem municipality inspectors also took photos of several Palestinian buildings in al-Bustan, Ein al-Luzah, and Wadi Hilweh areas on Friday. He added that inspectors had also delivered a demolition order to the al-Qarain family demanding the demolition of a storehouse made of bricks and tin sheets.

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality was not immediately available for comment on the demolition warrants issued in al-Bustan.

Also on Friday, Israeli settlers occupied several Palestinian-owned properties in Silwan.

The residents of al-Bustan have been embroiled in a decades-long battle that began in the 1970s after the Israeli government embarked on a plan to build a national park in the area, with the city's master plan defining the area as an open space where construction was prohibited, according to Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

Due to the designation, residents have long faced great difficulties contending with demolition orders issued against the homes that were built there without permits -- mostly in the 1980s -- due to the increasing population in Silwan.

The municipality began issuing demolition orders and indictments to homes in al-Bustan in 2005 as part of the Israeli authorities' plan to establish the Jewish site "King David's Garden" in Silwan and around the "Holy Basin," which includes many Christian and Muslim holy sites.

In 2009 the municipality announced its intention to demolish 88 homes in al-Bustan, which would result in the displacement of some 1,500 people.

After the residents' appeals to the plan were rejected, the Jerusalem Municipality proposed that they voluntarily relocate to another Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina, in northern East Jerusalem, but the residents refused.

In early 2010, the municipality filed a new plan which included a tourist park called "King's Valley" or "King's Garden" in al-Bustan, that called for the demolition of structures in the neighborhood's western part -- at least 22 -- while structures in the eastern part of al-Bustan -- about 66 -- would receive retroactive approval along with increased building rights.

The municipal plan was approved by the local committee in June 2010 and awaits approval from the district committee, B'Tselem said in 2014.

Despite the freeze on plans since 2010, Israeli forces have regularly raided al-Bustan and issued demolition orders to residents.
In December, locals said that Israeli authorities delivered 13 demolition notices to families in al-Bustan. However, a spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality rejected the claims at the time, saying that they were "patently false."

Silwan is one of many Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem that has seen an influx of Israeli settlers at the cost of home demolitions and the eviction of Palestinian families. The area has also come under heightened presence of Israeli military forces in recent months.

Silwan residents -- like most Palestinians in Jerusalem -- have long engaged in efforts to prevent their displacement by the Israeli government, which has aimed to establish a Jewish majority since Israel first illegally occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.

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