Israel demolishes tent of elderly Arab couple

Al-Kurd family built the tent after being evicted from illegal home in E. Jerusalem by municipality.

bulldozer 88 (photo credit: AP)
bulldozer 88
(photo credit: AP)
Jerusalem Municipality bulldozers on Thursday demolished a tent set up by an elderly Arab couple in east Jerusalem whose illegally-built home had been razed earlier this month, the city said. The tent in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarah had been erected by the Al-Kurd family on public land and was taken down after the family ignored a city order to vacate the site and dismantle the tent, Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Gidi Schmerling said in a written response. The tent demolition, which was immediately condemned by an Israeli group which advocates for Palestinian rights in the city, came less than two weeks after Jerusalem police evicted the family from their home on the basis of the Supreme Court's finding that a Jewish family was the rightful owner of the land on which the house was built. "This step is intended to silence legitimate protest that arose out of suspicion of the plan to expel local residents in order to establish a new Jewish neighborhood in the area," said Yudith Oppenheimer, Executive Director of the far-left Ir Amim organization. "Steps like these do not serve the general interest of the city, nor of Israel, and instead escalate the already-sensitive situation in east Jerusalem," she said. In a written press release, the organization originally said that the protest tent had been erected on private Palestinian land, but in the wake of the city's ruling that the area in question was public land later said that it didn't know if this claim, which had been made by local residents, was indeed true. Palestinians and left-wing Israelis routinely complain that it is difficult for Arabs to obtain building permits in Jerusalem, forcing them to build illegally, while the municipality insists that it is even-handed in enforcing building codes throughout the city. The dispute was the latest Israeli move against Arab squatters in east Jerusalem. Since the beginning of the year, the municipality has carried out 108 demolitions, including 78 in east Jerusalem and 30 in west Jerusalem, the city said. Jerusalem Mayor-elect Nir Barkat has said that he favors much-needed infrastructure plans for east Jerusalem, coupled with the continued enforcement of the law against illegal building in the city.