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5 Palestinian families face expulsion as hundreds of new settlement units promoted

July 3, 2017 3:33 P.M. (Updated: July 4, 2017 1:05 P.M.)
The Israeli settlement of Har Homa, built in East Jerusalem, is seen on September 1, 2014. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities are set to discuss the advancement of nearly 1,800 housing units for illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli NGO Peace Now reported on Monday.

The plans will include two new buildings -- respectively three and five stories tall -- in the heart of the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah that will require the expulsion of five Palestinian families, up for discussion at Israel’s Jerusalem Regional Committee on July 16.

Additionally, a nine story yeshiva campus that includes student accommodation and a six-story office building are also planned to be built in Sheikh Jarrah.

According to Peace Now, it is the first time in recent years that new housing units are being planned for settlers within a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

Settlers have been engaged in an ongoing legal battle over the two plans that aim to be established on the property where the five Palestinian families reside, for a total of 13 settlement units.

The Palestinian families in question are legally regarded as protected tenants in the Israeli-owned properties, a status that was achieved according to an Israeli law that allows Jewish Israelis to claim ownership of property if they can prove it was under Jewish ownership before 1948.

However, the law only applies to Jewish Israelis, and not to Palestinians who were dispossessed of their lands and properties prior to and after the establishment of Israel in 1948, despite their right being upheld by UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

In the cases of the five Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, legal actions taken by settlers for their eviction have yet to be materialize, Peace Now Said. “Nevertheless, the law enables landowners to destroy and restructure a new building whilst protected tenants do not lose their legal rights, hence the advancement of these plans.”

The plan to evict the Palestinian families for the establishment of a new Israeli settlement “shows that nothing will get in the way of settler groups and a pro-settler government from preventing a future compromise in Jerusalem," the settlement watchdog said.
(Peace Now)

Aside from the Sheikh Jarrah settlement plans, Israel’s Jerusalem Regional Committee will also discuss plans for 1,788 housing units to expand existing illegal Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

On Tuesday July 4, five plans totaling 944 housing units in the Pisgat Zeev settlement will be discussed for depositing on lands that were confiscated by the Israeli government in the 1980s.

On July 18, four plans will be discussed for depositing totaling additional 800 settlement units: 116 more in Pisgat Zeev, 270 in Gilo, 200 in Ramot, and 214 in Neve Yaakov. The committee would have also discussed objections to another plan for Gilo that adds 44 units to an approved plan that currently enables 130 housing, on July 17.
Plans in Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaakov to be discussed at the regional committee. (Peace Now)

Further plans for illegal settlements within developed Palestinian communities are also set to be discussed on July 16, including the retroactive legalization of eight settler units in the Beit Orot settlement on the lands of the Palestinian al-Suwwana neighborhood, and a plan for synagogue at the Nof Zion settlement in Jabal al-Mukabbir.

Responding to the reports, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Negotiations Affairs Department said on Twitter, “Israel confirms again its commitment to apartheid and ethnic cleansing with today's settlement announcements in occupied Jerusalem, not peace.”

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi meanwhile “strongly condemned” the plans for settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, including in Sheikh Jarrah.

“This provocative colonial behavior is a violation of international law that will trigger only violence and instability in the region and beyond,” she warned on Monday.

After reports emerged last month that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised the United States government to stop marketing new settlement units for the rest of 2017, Peace Now called the alleged promise “another spin of the Netanyahu government trying to fool the public.”

Pointing to information gathered from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), Peace Now highlighted that this year, the Israeli government had already issued tenders for the construction of 2,858 settlement units in the West Bank.

The numbers marked an “unprecedented number of units” ever recorded -- at least since 2002, which is the earliest data available.

Among the thousands of new settler units to be advanced in recent weeks were 102 units for the Amichai settlement, the first new Israeli settlement established in more than two decades. Israeli authorities broke ground on Amichai on June 20.

Peace Now also recently reported a stark increase of 70 percent in construction starts in the settlements between April 2016 and March 2017.

Since the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis have moved into Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international law.

The estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law.

Meanwhile, although Israeli settler outposts -- unapproved by the Israeli government -- are even considered illegal under Israeli law, earlier this year, Israel passed the outpost Regularization law, which would pave the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of Israeli settler outposts.

According to UN documentation, as of June 19, 74 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished by Israel in East Jerusalem since the beginning of the year, displacing at least 158 Palestinians. A total of 190 Palestinian buildings were demolished in East Jerusalem in 2016.
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