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Israeli forces deliver 13 demolition notices to Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem

Dec. 10, 2016 1:47 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 12, 2016 4:00 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli Jerusalem municipality crews escorted by armed Israeli forces raided the al-Bustan neighborhood of the village of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday and delivered 13 demolition notices for several residential structures, reports that a spokesperson for the municipality denied days later.

Activist and member of the Committee for the Defense of Silwan Properties Fakhri Abu Diyab told Ma’an that municipality crews handed 13 demolition notices to several families in al-Bustan neighborhood.

Abu Diyab noted that the houses slated for demolition were built tens of years ago, and are home to more than 100 Palestinians, including women and children.

He highlighted that Israeli municipality crews raid the town on a weekly basis, mostly on Fridays and Saturdays, and deliver demolition notices and summons for residents under different pretexts.

“The municipality’s raids aim is to tighten the situation and create a psychological, economical and social pressures on residents to force them look for other places to live in,” Abu Diyab said.

In a response to a request for comment, spokesperson for Israel's Jerusalem Municipality Rachel Greenspan told Ma'an via email on Sunday that the reports of the 13 demolition orders were "patently false."

"The Jerusalem Municipality did not issue 13 demolition orders in Silwan on Friday... Two notices about court-ordered demolitions were posted on illegal structures adjacent to the King's Garden, so that owners could exercise their right to contest the orders in court. An additional five preliminary notices were posted on illegal structures in the area, notifying owners that their structures were illegal and inviting them for inspection before the matter is taken to court."

The neighborhood has been embroiled in a decades-long battle that began in the 1970’s after the Israeli government embarked on a plan to build a national park in the area, with the city's master plan defining the area as an open space where construction was prohibited, according to Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

Due to the designation, residents have long faced great difficulties contending with demolition orders issued against the homes that were built there without permits -- mostly in the 1980s -- due to increasing overcrowding in Silwan.

The municipality began issuing demolition orders and indictments to homes in al-Bustan in 2005 as part of the Israeli authorities plan to establish the Jewish site “King David’s Garden” in Silwan and around the "Holy Basin," which includes many Christian and Muslim holy sites.

In 2009 the municipality announced its intention to demolish 88 homes in al-Bustan, to displace some 1,500 people.

After the residents’ appeals were rejected, the Jerusalem Municipality proposed that they voluntarily relocate to another Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina, in northern occupied East Jerusalem, but the residents refused.

In early 2010, the municipality filed a new plan which included a tourist park called “King’s Valley” or “King’s Garden” in al-Bustan, that called for the demolition of structures in the neighborhood’s western part -- at least 22 -- while structures in the eastern part of al-Bustan -- about 66 -- would receive retroactive approval along with increased building rights.

The municipal plan was approved by the local committee in June 2010 and awaits approval from the district committee, B’Tselem said in 2014.

Despite the freeze on plans since 2010, Israeli forces have regularly raided the al-Bustan neighborhood and issued demolition orders to residents.

Additionally, Abu Diyab highlighted the heightened risks that Palestinian residents across the Jerusalem district face as the demolition date of Israel’s illegal Amona outpost in the occupied West Bank fast approaches, with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat last month warning that any dismantlement of the illegal Israeli outpost would be met with the mass demolition of Palestinian homes lacking Israeli-issued building permits in occupied East Jerusalem.

Silwan is one of many Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem that has seen an influx of Israeli settlers at the cost of home demolitions and the eviction of Palestinian families. The area has also come under heightened presence of Israeli military forces in recent months.

Silwan residents -- like most Palestinians in Jerusalem -- have long engaged in efforts to prevent their displacement by the Israeli government, which has aimed to establish a Jewish majority since Israel first illegally occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.

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