Israeli settlers took over an empty building in the occupied East Jerusalem village of Silwan, overnight Friday, July 2, according to the local Wadi Hilweh Information Center (SILWANIC). According to SILWANIC, dozens of settlers under the aegis of special forces used a lorry to block access to the neighborhood, then barged their way into the empty building.
The information center indicated that the identity of the owner of the 160 square meter building could not immediately be ascertained, as its ownership has been transferred between families several times in recent years, while other occupants have rented the house during the last seven years.
Several hours before the nighttime takeover, some 20 settlers stormed the same neighborhood and dispersed themselves among several Jewish outposts established in homes previously lived in by Palestinian families. The Friday night takeover of the empty building marks the establishment of the first Jewish colonial outpost in the courtyard of al-Fakhouri, in the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood of Silwan.
While Israel’s municipality refuses to allow Palestinians to build or restore their homes in the occupied East Jerusalem village of Silwan, Jewish settlers often are able to conduct renovations on the buildings they take over with the consent of West Jerusalem’s municipal authorities. Currently, hundreds of Palestinian-owned homes in various areas of Silwan, particularly in the neighborhoods of Batn al-Hawa, Wadi Hilweh, and al-Bustan, are under threat of demolition by the Israeli municipality for construction without permit. As recently as Wednesday, June 30, Israeli authorities demolished a Palestinian shop in Silwan’s al-Bustan neighborhood allegedly for “being built without obtaining a permit from the municipality.”
Palestinians contend that the demolition orders are part of a large-scale ethnic cleansing scheme by Israel aimed at emptying Silwan of its Palestinian residents and eventually inhabiting it with Israeli settlers and thereby transforming all of Silwan to what Israel authorities call the “City of David.”
Currently, all 1,500 Palestinian residents of Silwan’s al-Bustan neighborhood, residing in about a hundred different properties, face the threat of being evacuated from their homes so that the City of David Archaeological Park, founded by Israeli settler organizations with the support of the government, can be expanded to include the entire area now populated by these Palestinians and their homes, in a gross an unabashed example of ongoing ethnic cleansing, a crime against humanity.