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PLO slams approval of illegal settlement project in Silwan

March 25, 2016 2:54 P.M. (Updated: March 27, 2016 6:10 P.M.)
Foreign tourists visit in 2011 the Elad’s City of David archaeological site located in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan. (AFP/Menahem Kahana, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A senior PLO official on Friday condemned Israel's approval of a massive building project planned by Israeli settlement organization Elad in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem.

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said the approval by the Israeli National Council for Planning and Building was a clear sign that Israel was "deliberately isolating Jerusalem from its Palestinian environs and indigenous people and transforming it into an exclusively Jewish city."

She said: "Once again, the chances for peace and the two-state solution are being willfully destroyed and systematically dismantled by Israel and its illegal settlement enterprise to superimpose 'Greater Israel' on historic Palestine."

The project, known as Kedem, is part of the ongoing City of David settlement enterprise championed by Elad, a group that since the 1980s has worked towards its self-professed aim to replace Jerusalem's indigenous Palestinian population with Jewish communities.

According to the Silwan-based Wadi Hilweh Information Center, the Kedem plan covers some 9,000 square meters at the entrance to Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood outside Jerusalem’s Old City, just south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The project includes a massive building holding stores and offices for Elad, as well as an archaeological visitors' center for the nearby City of David National Park. Ashrawi said the building will also hold offices for the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

Ashrawi called on the international community -- the UN, EU, and the US in particular -- to take immediate action "to curb Israel’s ongoing breach of international law and international humanitarian law, and to support our multilateral efforts of resorting to all venues of international judicial accountability."

The Israeli National Council for Planning and Building approved Elad's Kedem project Wednesday despite over a decade of appeals against it by Palestinian residents and Israeli academics and rights organizations.

The project was approved after an emergency session was held at the council's headquarters in violation of a ruling by the Appeals Commission in the Supreme Planning Council -- which called off the project last summer -- according to the Wadi Hilweh Center.

Silwan residents fighting the plan said they withdrew from the session after council members exhibited racist behaviors.

The land included in the Kedem project was confiscated by Israeli authorities following the illegal military occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, and has served as a parking lot since.

Elad took over the land in 2003 and has since excavated the area, reportedly demolishing a 1,200-year-old Islamic cemetery, as well as Ottoman, Umayyad, Byzantine and Roman ruins.

It was reported that the group only preserved ruins they believed to be part of Jerusalem's Second Temple, while disregarding ruins from other historical ruins in line with their goal to "Judaize" Jerusalem.

Silwan's Palestinian residents meanwhile face ongoing threats of displacement by Elad and other settler organizations who are slowly taking over homes in the neighborhood under the protection of Israeli forces.
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