Designed By: ehsanibnzaid


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Israel to carry out largest home demolition project


5/31/2005 8:00:00 PM GMT
The Jerusalem municipality will demolish 88 homes housing around 1,000 residents in an Arab neighborhood to build a national park, an Israeli newspaper reported on Tuesday, quoting a top city planner.
The city order would be one of the largest demolition projects in the area since Israel seized Arab east Jerusalem in 1967. The move would cause an uproar among the Palestinians who want this part of the city as a capital for their future state.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the demolition plan, warning of serious damage to the already fragile peace process. “I urge the Israeli government not to do this demolition, and to give peace a chance,” he said.
The 88 houses are located in east Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhood of Silwan, outside the Old City, Haaretz said.
The daily cited Jerusalem city engineer Uri Shetrit as saying that the plan is to raze the homes and build a national park in the neighborhood to create an area without Palestinian residents near Jerusalem’s Old City.
Shetrit claimed that most of the 88 buildings were built without building permits, adding that he ordered city officials to deal “most forcefully” with the construction violations.
Shetrit also said that the area marked for demolition was designated a “green zone” in 1977, making any construction illegal. He noted that he depends on zoning violations to justify demolition orders.
He said that homes built before 1967 will not be demolished, explaining that the city is banned from destroying buildings built without permits that are older than seven years.
“The building offense runs out, but there’s no statute of limitations on using the illegal house, so we can bar residents from entering their homes even if we can’t destroy them,” he said, noting that it would be easier to destroy an abandoned house later on.
Palestinians and Israeli human rights activists say that Israel is using zoning and other administrative tools to limit the growth of the Palestinian population in Jerusalem.
Palestinian residents also complain of the difficulties they face in obtaining building permits in east Jerusalem, and that they have no choice but to build illegally.
Danny Seideman, an Israeli human rights activist, said that Israel demolished about 160 homes in 2004, noting that all the houses were spread across all Arab areas in Jerusalem.
In Silwan, “the intention of the municipality is very clear, and that is to rid the area of its Palestinian residents,” said Seideman, who chairs Ir Amim, a Jerusalem settlement watchdog.
Wadia al-Fahari, a Palestinian resident, was quoted by Haaretz as saying that some of the houses date back to the 1940s and 1950s and that they were built on private Palestinian land.
The Palestinian residents will use all legal means to resist the demolitions because “we have nowhere to take our wives and children and old folks”, Fahari said.

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