E. J'lem locals Mount Scopus park work frozen

Four left-wing activists briefly held for trying to stop bulldozers’ work on slopes.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
February 7, 2012 02:16
2 minute read.
Samar sand dunes protest

Samar sand dunes protest_311. (photo credit: Dov Greenblatt, Society for the Protection of Natu)

Tensions rose again in east Jerusalem over a national park called the Slopes of Mount Scopus, which is in the intermediate stages of the approval process, after three bulldozers began clearing land on Monday morning.

Four left-wing activists were taken for questioning by police after they tried to stop the bulldozers from working. They were later released.

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Dozens of locals gathered at the work site to observe the bulldozers, but there was no stone-throwing.

Three weeks ago, a number of residents were arrested after they threw stones at bulldozers.

At the time, the municipality said that the bulldozers were clearing away trash left from construction. There has been no work in the area since then.

A Jerusalem Municipality spokesman said the work on Monday was routine and intended to preserve the green open area, and to “fight against criminals who throw trash and private individuals who try to appropriate the land.”

The bulldozers were removing part of a road that lead to illegally constructed homes.

Lawyer Sami Ershied filed two petitions with the Jerusalem District Court on Monday afternoon on behalf of residents in Isawiya and ATur, which halted the work around 2 o’clock. Ershied said the city lacked the necessary permits to carry out the work, and did not notify the affected families before beginning the work.

The district court froze the work and will hear the case on Tuesday morning.

Plans to make the area a national park still require approval from the Interior Ministry and the Environmental Protection Ministry, a process that could take at least six months. Activists and residents say the city should not be working on the site until its status has been decided by the ministries.

“The municipality promised the park would be farther away; they said our land was OK,” said Muhammad Casman, an A-Tur resident whose apartment abuts the park.

“We’re not allowed to even look at the plans... We’re standing here, but we don’t even know if this is going to be the national park or not. In the morning we woke up and we just heard them starting to work.”

The 73.2-hectare (181-acre) park is part of a larger project from the Jerusalem Development Authority to create a network of green spaces around the Old City to preserve the few open spaces that are left in the crowded area.

The authority says that creating a national park is the best way to protect against illegal building, which could destroy the last green area in east Jerusalem.

But residents in A-Tur and Isawiya say the park encroaches on their land and will stop them from expanding their congested neighborhoods.


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