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Watchdog: Israeli excavations in East Jerusalem seriously damaging Palestinian homes

Aug. 29, 2016 1:55 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 30, 2016 1:08 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian residents of the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan have seen their homes sustain growing damage as a result of Israeli construction in the area, a local watchdog reported on Monday.

According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, ongoing Israeli excavations in the neighborhood have caused deep fissures to appear or worsen in homes in the Wadi Hilweh area of Silwan.

One widow who moved after her ground floor apartment suffered from serious damage, has now seen new fissures appear on the second floor of the same building only months after she relocated there.

The Wadi Hilweh Center quoted Dawood Atallah Siyam as saying that cracks first appeared in all seven apartments of his family’s building some three months ago as a result of the excavations, and that they had “widened noticeably in the past few days.”

The organization added that a nearby home belonging to the Sarafandi family had also suffered from serious cracks in the floor and damage to its utility network.

“Cracks and collapses only used to happen in Wadi Hilweh structures and streets during the winter,” the center’s statement read. “But recently old cracks have widened and new ones have started to appear, which indicates that Israeli authorities have intensified excavation works under the area.”

According to the statement, locals have reported that they could clearly hear noise caused by electric and manual digging tools.

Ahmad Qarain, a member of a local committee in Wadi Hilweh, said that Israeli authorities started excavations in the area in 2007.

Silwan residents reportedly managed to obtain an Israeli court order to stop excavations for 14 months.

However, Israeli settler organizations have since been given permission to continue with excavations “so long as they don’t endanger the residents.” But Qarain said that the ongoing excavations and diggings “do not take into account the safety of the residents.”

Israel frequently permits excavations and archaeological digs in occupied East Jerusalem, specifically around the Al-Aqsa mosque, that threaten the structural integrity of Palestinian homes and holy sites in the area.

In the past, tunnels have partially collapsed and caused holes to open up above them, threatening Palestinian homes, roads, and a local mosque.

Right-wing Israeli organization Elad, also known as the Ir David Foundation, aims to "rediscover and preserve the Biblical city of David," in an effort to connect Jews to their Biblical roots through tourism, archaeological excavation, and "Judaizing Jerusalem" by buying out homes in Palestinian majority neighborhoods.

The organization began the buy and takeover of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem in the early 1990s, and later established the City of David Settlement in the Palestinian neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh.

Israeli authorities announced a plan to build a Jewish history park in Wadi Hilweh in February 2014, for which seven families had received eviction notices for the project, according to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center.

Israeli excavations at the entrance to the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood have also destroyed Islamic antiquities from the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphate eras, including a Muslim cemetery, according to the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage

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