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Israeli forces level Palestinian playground in latest Silwan demolition

March 29, 2016 11:15 A.M. (Updated: March 30, 2016 11:04 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli authorities on Tuesday leveled a privately-owned playground and uprooted several trees in the latest demolition to take place in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, locals said.

Silwan resident Khalid al-Zeir told Ma’an that armed Israeli forces escorted excavators and inspectors from the Jerusalem municipality at dawn onto a playground he built in the al-Abbasiyya area of the neighborhood.

The excavators leveled his land and demolished a number of structures across the playground, including a single room used for storage, a poultry pen, walls, and fences, al-Zeir said, adding that a number of trees were also cut down.

Al-Zeir told Ma’an Israeli soldiers involved in the demolition hurled stones at him and attacked his acquaintance when the two attempted to access the area.

Al-Zeir said he was notified by Israel’s Nature and National Parks Authority that his playground was built on a “historically important archaeological area” where construction or changes to the landscape are prohibited.

Jawad Siyam of the Silwan-based Wadi Hilweh Information Center confirmed the demolition of al-Zeir’s property, and told Ma’an several trees and saplings belonging to the Simrin family -- also in Silwan -- were uprooted by Israeli forces without prior notice.

The Simrin family told the center the land was used as a dump before the they cleaned up the area six years ago, building stone walls and planting trees.

Siyam told Ma’an that much of Silwan was shut off completely by Israeli forces during the demolitions.

Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are under constant threat of demolition or displacement due to policies carried out by consecutive Israeli governments to establish a Jewish majority in the occupied Palestinian-majority city.

Palestinians' ability to build homes or expand existing structures legally has been severely limited by the Jerusalem municipality, and more than 3,000 Palestinian structures have been demolished since 1967, according the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department.

The Wadi Hilweh center in February said the Israeli authorities were escalating demolitions Silwan in particular, and at least four demolitions have been carried out in the neighborhood this month.

Meanwhile, the Israeli National Council for Planning and Building approved last week a massive building project planned by Israeli settlement organization Elad in Silwan.

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.

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said the approval 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."

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