National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has ordered Israel Police to carry out demolitions of illegal housing units in east Jerusalem throughout the month of Ramadan, despite a decision made years ago to end this practice, Kan News reported on Monday morning.
The decision to end the demolition of illegal construction in east Jerusalem specifically during Ramadan was made several years ago so as not to further increase tensions during the already tenuous month. However, according to KAN Reshet Bet, Ben-Gvir has given the order to reverse this decision, and police are following the directive, despite the increased security risk that comes with it.
"The words of the colonialist and racist minister incite escalation, in light of his boasting about the demolition of the homes of Palestinian citizens in Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan."Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry
IDF officials have warned in recent weeks that Ramadan this year could increase the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians that are already on the rise after 14 Israelis were murdered in terror attacks since the start of 2023.
Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies annual conference last week, IDF Operations Commander Maj. Gen. Oded Bassiuk warned that he could not promise that Palestinian terrorism will not escalate leading into the month of Ramadan, set to start on March 22 and end on April 20.
Additionally, in February, Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai warned that police forces are suffering from a severe manpower shortage, which could also heavily affect their ability to respond to violence during Ramadan.
Palestinians accuse Ben-Gvir of setting region on fire
Early on Monday afternoon, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned Ben-Gvir's statement, warning that he will send the region into chaos.
"We condemn the statements of the fascist Ben-Gvir, who is inciting and working to set the area on fire," read the statement.
"The words of the colonialist and racist minister incite escalation, in light of his boasting about the demolition of the homes of Palestinian citizens in Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan," it continued.
"The statements are intended to set the area on fire against the background of the attempts to Judaize Jerusalem, the crimes of ethnic cleansing and the acts of forced deportation, which affect all aspects of the lives of citizens in Jerusalem.
"The ministry considers the government of Israel, led by Netanyahu, to bear full and direct responsibility for the ongoing crimes in Jerusalem."
Ben-Gvir's east Jerusalem plans
In recent weeks, Ben-Gvir has been pushing for a crackdown on east Jerusalem neighborhoods as part of the fight against terror, in a plan he has dubbed "Defensive Shield Two."
Despite pushback on the matter from those close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said that Ben-Gvir lacks the authority to enact this plan, he has stated his desire to move forward with the project, whether or not he receives additional forces.
According to people close to the minister, he has already instructed Shabtai, as well as Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman to take steps to crack down on terror in east Jerusalem, including the detention and arrest of 150 terror suspects already known to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the demolition of illegally constructed homes in east Jerusalem.
On Monday, three homes belonging to Arab residents of the Wadi Joz neighborhood of east Jerusalem were demolished by the municipality, according to Palestinian reports.
The buildings belong to the Totah family. According to WAFA, the family attempted to receive permits for the homes but were unable to. Other buildings belonging to the family in the area have been destroyed in the past.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.