JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli Jerusalem municipality crews escorted by armed Israeli forces raided on Friday the al-Bustan neighborhood of the village of Silwan in the occupied West Bank Jerusalem district, and delivered 13 demolition notices for several residential structures.
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 have been built for tens of years, 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.
A spokesperson from Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality was not immediately available for comment.
Friday’s targeting of the al-Bustan neighborhood is part of a decades-long battle that began in the 1970’s
between Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality and the neighborhood’s residents over the Israeli government’s plan to build a national park in the area.
According to the city’s “Master Plan No. 9,”
al-Bustan Valley was defined as an open space where construction was prohibited.
Due to the designation, residents have long faced great difficulties contending with demolition orders
issued against their homes, due to the fact that they cannot lay down proper infrastructures, build public facilities, or build additions to their homes or new homes on the lands that they had owned long before the annexation of occupied east Jerusalem in 1967.
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.
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.