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Jewish settlers take over new building in Silwan

Aug. 27, 2015 10:13 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 27, 2015 5:59 P.M.)
(Wadi Hilweh Information Center)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Jewish settlers on Thursday morning took over a building in the Batn al-Hawa area in the Silwan neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, claiming the building was sold to the far-right Jewish organization Ateret Cohanim, locals told Ma'an.

The Silwan-based Wadi Hilweh Information Center said in a statement that more than 60 settlers stormed Batn al-Hawa in the center of Silwan at 2:30 a.m. and took over a building belonging to Jamal Sarhan.

Israeli troops escorted the settlers, who brought their belongings with them as they moved into in the building.

The settlers then barred the windows before they raised an Israeli flag on the rooftop.

The five-story building, according to the statement, consists of 12 apartments. The settlers took control of four floors.

One Palestinian Jerusalemite tenant refused to evacuate his apartment, and as a result the settlers failed to take over the last of the five floors.

Earlier this month a lawyer representing Ateret Cohanim reportedly issued evacuation notices for three Palestinian buildings owned by the Sarhan family in Batn al-Hawa, claiming that the land on which the homes are built belong to three Jewish men from Yemen who lived there before 1948.

It is yet unknown if Jamal Sarhan's building was one of the three from the previous case.

The five-story building is now the seventh and biggest settler outpost in Batn al-Hawa. The first was created in 2005 and is known as Beit Yonatan.

Settlement watchdog Peace Now said Wednesday that although the Israeli government claims that it is not involved in settler takeover of the home, the government could prevent the illegal takeover by not providing armed protection to settlers upon their entrance.

'Under the radar'

Attempts to take over the properties are part of a bigger plan by Ateret Cohanim to seize 5,200 square meters (56,000 square feet) in the central quarter of Batn al-Hawa, the Wadi Hilweh Center told Ma'an.

The land in question houses around 300 Palestinians, or 80 families, living in more than 30 buildings, according to the center.

A few days before the evacuation notice for the three buildings was issued, another Palestinian family received an evacuation notice from the same organization

The chief of a local committee representing the Batn al-Hawa area, Zuheir al-Rajabi, told Ma'an that Ateret Cohanim “has been working on displacing the residents of the area.”

In a controversial move last year, Ateret Cohanim secretly bought and renovated a building in the heart of occupied East Jerusalem near the Damascus and Flowers gates of the Old City.

The building was turned into the Ateret Cohanim Jerusalem Torah Learning Center, where groups of students from pre-army academies around Israel are brought in on learning retreats.

Following the purchase, emails between Ateret Cohanim and its supporters were leaked to Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, detailing the organization's plans for the future.

In one of the emails, the group's executive director said the purchase was "the first acquisition of its kind, in the area, which is in the heart of the commercial Arab district of Jerusalem" and said the group's work was "being done quietly under the radar."
Abe Hayeem / UK
This is an absolute disgrace and outrage -with extremist settlers displacing Palestinian families on spurious and false grounds, to infiltrate into the heart of Palestinian Jerusalem. These takeovers are illegal and should be stopped instead of being enforced by the Israeli government.
28/08/2015 19:19
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