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Israel to build Jewish tourist center on private Palestinian land

Feb. 18, 2014 9:40 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 20, 2014 10:34 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israel plans to build a Jewish tourist center in East Jerusalem on private Palestinian land, a local information center said Tuesday.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center said in a statement that the new center would be built east of the Silwan neighborhood and south of the Al-Aqsa mosque, without specifying when.

The building and the land surrounding it will feature a "museum of Jewish history" and a "Jewish national park," the statement said.

The government-led project is sponsored by the Ir David Foundation, an organization that promotes a Jewish connection to parts of the Silwan neighborhood, including the "City of David" archaeological site.

According to the Information Center, the tourist center will be built on 1,200 square meters of Palestinian land in the al-Ain area.

Municipality crews have already issued notices to seven families in the al-Ain area, informing them that the project will be implemented on their lands, the statement said.

The families were given 60 days to appeal the decision to Israeli courts. All appeals will need to include various legal documents, such as building permits, according to the statement.

Twenty-two houses on five dunams (1.2 acres), holding members of the al-Abbassi, Abu Mayala, Abu Subeih, and Abu Sneineh families, are threatened by the decision.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center condemned the project, saying it threatened "the Arab and Muslim makeup of a neighborhood adjacent to the southern wall of Al-Aqsa."

Lawyer Sami Irsheed, whose privately-owned land could be affected by the project, will appeal on behalf of the residents, the statement said.

According to the UN, 33 percent of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack Israeli-issued building permits, potentially placing at least 93,100 residents at risk of displacement.

Figures from Israeli NGO Bimkom show that 95 percent of Palestinian applications for a building permit are rejected.

Since 1967, the Israeli authorities have demolished some 2,000 houses in East Jerusalem. Over 1,630 Palestinians were made homeless in house demolitions carried out by Israel between 2004-2012, B'Tselem says.
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