A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Government bulldozers demolished an illegally constructed Arab home in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, adjacent to the Old City, on Wednesday.
According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, based in Silwan, IDF soldiers arrived during the early morning hours and cordoned off the area surrounding the home, belonging to the Nassar family, before razing it.
While a member of the family conceded that construction of the 80-sq.m. residence commenced three months ago without a building permit from the Jerusalem Municipality, he claimed that no prior warning of the imminent destruction was issued by the municipality, the center reported.
An official from city hall denied the allegation.
Police said that despite the emotionally charged atmosphere, no violence took place.
One week earlier, three illegally built shops and a house under construction were also demolished in Silwan by government bulldozers.
Following last week’s demolitions, Meretz City Councilman Dr. Meir Margalit, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio in the municipality, described the move as heavy-handed and poorly timed.
“In this moment in Jerusalem, when the tension is so high, and when the international community is focusing their attention on what’s going on in the city, it’s a double mistake,” he said. “On an international level, we must do everything we can in order to calm the situation in the city, and this will not help.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has repeatedly stated that the standard for obtaining building permits is uniform throughout the capital, and that illegally built Jewish structures in Jerusalem are also routinely demolished.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, since the beginning of the year, the government has demolished 197 illegally built Arab homes in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Wednesday’s demolition comes three weeks after tensions flared in Silwan following the acquisition of several apartments in a former Yemenite synagogue by Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing organization that purchases properties for Jews in Arab neighborhoods.
Ateret Cohanim said ownership of most of the contested property, which Arabs seized during Arab rioting in the ’30s, was recently awarded to the NGO by the court following a protracted legal battle with its previous Arab residents.