Illegally-built mosque reportedly ordered demolished in east Jerusalem

‘This is a red line, and if the municipality crosses it, it will result in disaster for the city,’ says Meretz councilman.

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August 23, 2015 20:31
2 minute read.
Palestinians walk near an opening in Israel's security fence east Jerusalem

Palestinians walk near an opening in Israel's security fence in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of A-tur. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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If the municipality carries out reported demolition orders for an illegally built east Jerusalem mosque, it will set off a conflagration of violence throughout the capital, former east Jerusalem portfolio head and Meretz councilman Dr. Meir Margalit said on Sunday.

According to Majdi al-Abbasi of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan, the demolition orders were delivered by municipal officials on Friday for the three-year-old al-Qaaqaa Mosque, located in the flashpoint neighborhood of Silwan.

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The mosque, built in the Ein al-Luza area of the community, occupies 110 sq. m. of space for some 5,000 worshipers, the Ma’an News Agency reported.

An illegally-built studio apartment inside the mosque – as well as another residence in the neighborhood, purportedly inhabited by a family of six – also have been ordered to be razed, Ma’an reported.

Details regarding the second home remain unclear.

“I hope the municipality understands that this would be seen as a red line and they should not cross it,” Margalit said of the mosque’s reported demolition orders on Sunday.

“I hope it’s clear that if they cross this red line it will result in disaster in the city – especially in a place like Silwan where tensions are so high, and during this time when violence in the city is also high.”

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Moreover, Margalit said the order likely will not be carried out due to international intervention and, therefore, only serves as a profound provocation.

“My experience is that they will not do it, so the question is why are they sending a demolition order when they know it won’t be carried out,” he said.

“Over the last 10 years, the government has stopped the municipality from demolishing mosques because of pressure from the US and European Consulates in order to try to decrease the religious tension in this conflict,” he continued.

“This is just foolishness.”

Indeed, tensions in Silwan, where a number of Jewish settlers live, have been high as of late.

Following a protracted legal battle, four Palestinian families who had been living in the neighborhood for decades, were evicted from their homes earlier this month less than two weeks after a Jerusalem court ruled that the land is legally owned by a Jewish organization.

Members of the Abu Nab family, who have rented the homes located adjacent to the Old City since 1948, said they received eviction notices stipulating that they must vacate the properties within one week The NGO Ateret Cohanim – an organization that purchases properties for Jews in Arab neighborhoods – had successfully filed the lawsuit 15 years ago proving that the land the homes were built on was purchased more than 100 years ago by the Jewish group Hekdesh Benvenisti.

Records state that Hekdesh Benvenisti bought the plot at the end of the 19th century to build a neighborhood for Jews from Yemen. One of the Abu Nab residences is located inside a building that once served as the neighborhood’s synagogue, Ateret Cohanim proved.

According to the Abu Nab family, they lived in the residences since they were displaced from their homes in the Sultan’s Pool during the War of Independence.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that since the beginning of the year, 370 illegal Palestinian structures have been ordered razed in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, displacing 432 families.

The municipality did not return a request for comment regarding the Silwan mosque by deadline.

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