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Silwan Palestinians receive evacuation orders due to damage caused by Israeli tunnels

April 6, 2017 12:30 P.M. (Updated: April 6, 2017 4:29 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem issued evacuation orders for three housing apartments in the Wadi Hilweh area of the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Wednesday evening, due to fractures and cracks formed at the base of the houses, as Israeli authorities continued work on a tunnel network expected to be used to provide services to Israeli settlers.

According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, the houses belong to Hamed Oweida, Abed Oweida, and Suleiman Oweida.

Sixteen family members, including ten children, reside in the houses.

The Oweida family said that Israeli tunnel-digging under their homes has increased over the past three days, adding that loud noises from the digging would last for several hours, while the family could feel their houses shaking during the construction.

They said that the digging had caused severe damage of fractures and cracks in the walls and the bases of the houses.

The family added that they had called the Israeli police, who had then summoned a municipality team to inspect the houses. After taking photographs and inspecting the damage, an architect for the municipality decided to issue an emergency order for the families to evacuate and seal the houses, saying that it was dangerous to remain inside.

Suleiman Oweida had left his house several days ago after fractures in the walls had become more severe.

The information center said that Israeli authorities were creating a tunnel network for Israeli settlers directly under the Oweida family’s house.

Member of the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood committee Ahmad Qarrain said that the Israeli authorities began work under the neighborhood in 2007.

The residents at the time appealed to Israeli courts and were able to halt the construction under their homes for 14 months. However, Israeli courts later issued another order allowing the work to continue on the condition that the digging not endanger the lives of residents.

However, Qarrain said that the digging and work under the houses continued “without any consideration for the safety of residents,” and pointed out that the streets, walls, structures, and houses of the neighborhood have also been fractured and collapsed owing to the tunnel work.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Jerusalem municipality told Ma'an that the municipality had informed the residents that their properties were "unsound and dangerous" out of "concern for their own welfare," while also being built "without regard for building codes or safety standards."

The spokesperson added that "claims that the city is attempting to construct underneath this family's structure are patently false."
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