Jerusalem initiates demolition proceedings of 11 buildings it deems illegal constructions

Municipality issued orders to hundreds of Palestinian families in capital’s Ras Hamis and Ras Shahada neighborhoods.

Stone houses in Jerusalem (photo credit: Adi Benzaken)
Stone houses in Jerusalem
(photo credit: Adi Benzaken)
Hundreds of Palestinian families living in 11 buildings in the Ras Hamis and Ras Shahada neighborhoods, located just beyond Jerusalem’s security fence, received demolition orders earlier in the week from the Jerusalem Municipality due to illegal construction.
The notices, issued under orders from the Jerusalem Local Affairs Court, stated that if no appeal was filed within 30 days, the court would accept the municipality’s request to destroy the residences.
The neighborhoods, like the adjoining Shuafat refugee camp, are located within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries but are cut off from the city by the security fence’s eightmeter concrete walls, constructed in 2006.
A spokesperson for the Jerusalem Municipality issued a statement Wednesday saying that the demolition orders were based entirely on the court’s legal proceedings, and calling on the property owners to “regulate their affairs.”
Meanwhile, Daoud Sabha, a Ras Shahada resident whose home is scheduled to be destroyed, said Wednesday afternoon that he had recently moved into a now-condemned apartment with four family members, despite having learned of the municipality’s demolition plans days earlier.
Sabha, a former maintenance worker who was employed at The Jerusalem Post for 19 years, said that “the whole neighborhood is scheduled to be demolished. There’s nowhere to go.”
He said he had no choice but to move into the property, and was unsure what he would do next.
“This is all happening very quickly,” he said.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel condemned the municipality’s move in a statement on Tuesday.
“While all of Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods suffer from serious neglect, in the neighborhoods beyond the barrier the problems are even more egregious,” it said, adding that a lack of viable legal building options had made illegal construction necessary and “commonplace.”
The statement further noted that there had been virtually no police presence in the area since the completion of the wall, and that standard city services – including garbage collection and road maintenance – had all but disappeared.
“Amenities like parks, playgrounds and parking spaces are nonexistent,” it said.
Keren Tzafrir, an attorney representing the association, blamed the municipality for inadequately planning and servicing the communities, despite receiving payment on municipal taxes.
“Whoever visits these neighborhoods, which are within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, will be disgusted to discover Third World infrastructure,” she said. “The authorities have refused for years not only to develop the area, but even to undertake basic planning that would allow the tens of thousands of residents of the area to obtain legal building permits.”
Architect Sari Kronish of the nonprofit Bimkom (Planners for Planning Rights) said Tuesday that residents of Ras Hamis and Ras Shahada are caught in a unwinnable situation.
“On one hand, the lack of suitable planning is one of the major reasons why building permits are refused, and on the other hand, people live under the constant threat of home demolitions and constant neglect,” Kronish said. “This absurd situation must come to an end,” she added.