A view of Kafr Akab, one of the neighborhoods behind the security barrier that would be affected by Elkin's plan. (Udi Shaham).
(photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)
Police and municipality officials on Monday examined five illegal buildings in Jerusalem’s Kafr Akab neighborhood that are scheduled to be demolished.
According to a municipality plan, a public road will be paved next to the nearby security barrier, replacing the buildings in which there are some 138 apartments, some of which are uninhabited.
Kafr Akab is the northernmost neighborhood of Jerusalem and is located behind the security barrier that separates it from the rest of the city. On the north, the municipality borders Ramallah and the Palestinian part of Kafr Akab, which has its own municipality.
Because of its location and the lack of proper urban planning in east Jerusalem, the neighborhood has attracted many residents who did not manage to build a house inside the city. Municipality officials and security forces rarely enter the neighborhood, leaving supervision of construction there non-existent.
Out of some 60,000 residents in Kafr Akab, about 52,000 are living in illegal buildings.
While the municipality has said that the road was planned “on the demand of the residents and [for] their convenience,” Mounir “Abu Ashraf” Zghayer, chairman of the neighborhood’s local committee, said it was determined without conducting a proper dialogue with the residents who oppose it, and that the demolition will cause more damage than benefit.
“We never asked for this road, we don’t need it,” Zghayer told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “The municipality is forcing this move upon us, against our will.”
Zghayer acknowledged that the buildings scheduled for demolition were built illegally, but said the method chosen to destroy them, explosion, will cause collateral damage to adjacent buildings – which were also built illegally.
“They our putting our lives in danger,” he said.
Zghayer said the request to build a road along the wall was not made by the neighborhood committee, but by the municipality-run Local Community Administration, which received recommendations from the Palestinian Kafr Akab Municipality on the PA side of the neighborhood.
“Essentially, the municipality is getting recommendations from the Palestinian Authority and not from its own Israeli residents,” he said.
Zghayer also warned of possible reactions to the demolitions from Palestinians in the West Bank.
“People from the West Bank have free access to these areas. They will see this move and come over here.
It will spark violence,” he said.
Zghayer said that his committee has offered alternatives to the plan that do not necessitate demolitions.
“If they insist to pave the road alongside the wall, we offer to move the wall – on our expense. There is a road behind it already,” he said.
“If they want pave it as is, they can make it a one-way road, it is also a possibility.”
Zghayer said he has turned to international bodies for legal guidance to assist in stopping the plan.
“I am not against Barkat or the municipality. I want to reach a solution that serves first and foremost the Israeli interest – whether it is security or economical needs – but also our needs,” he said. “People gathered shekel after shekel to buy an apartment here. What will happen after the demolition?” Last month, the Jerusalem District Court rejected an appeal filed by the residents to prevent the demolitions and ruled the municipality’s plans were legal.
In a statement to the Post, the Jerusalem Municipality said: “In recent years the municipality granted permits for legal, safe and regulated building for the residents of east Jerusalem. However, the statement added that it would not accept illegal construction, especially when it harms the public interest or the residents themselves.”
Zghayer released a statement that said: “The international pressure that was made in the past in order to prevent enforcement against illegal construction is causing the most severe damage to the residents and not allowing proper supervision and development for their own benefit.”
The municipality statement concluded: “The municipality will keep working to apply its sovereignty in these neighborhoods for the public interest of their residents.”