A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Three illegally-built shops and a house under construction were demolished by Israeli government bulldozers in east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, adjacent to the Old City, on Tuesday morning.
In a statement, the Wadi Hilweh Information Center said a coterie of IDF soldiers, accompanied by a bulldozer, arrived during the early morning hours, cordoned off the area, and proceeded to raze the structures.
“Israeli bulldozers arrived at 4.00 a.m., backed by dozens of Israeli troops, and leveled the three shops to the ground under the pretext they had been built illegally,” the center said.
“The three shops were built on an area of 200 square meters, and owned by Anees Karameh.”
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), since the beginning of the year, the government has demolished 197 illegally-built Palestinian homes in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
East Jerusalem Portfolio head and Meretz City Councilman Dr. Meir Margalit described the demolitions as extreme, and poorly timed.
“I always said that demolitions are one of the most extreme actions that a country should [undertake] in just a very few cases,” he said.
“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 continued.
“On an international level, we must do everything we can in order to calm the situation in the city and this will not help.”
Moreover, Margalit said critics of Israel will seize the moment to further criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition.
“The second mistake is that the international community will criticize the government one week after this extreme new coalition has been set up, and this will bring more pressure to the government,” he added.
“So the demolitions don’t make sense and are a big mistake. Someone is not thinking in the municipality.”
The move comes two weeks after tensions flared in Silwan following the acquisition of several apartments in a former Yemenite synagogue by Ateret Cohanim, an organization that purchases properties for settlers in Arab neighborhoods.
According to the pro-settler group, ownership of most of the contested property – which was seized during Arab rioting in the 30s – was recently awarded to the NGO by the court following a protracted legal battle with its previous Palestinian residents.