Planning permission has been approved for the construction of a new military complex on Al-Zaytoun and Al-Mokabber Hills overlooking the southern side of Al-Aqsa Mosque. A site of around 10.5 acres has been earmarked for the project by the Israeli authorities. The new complex will include the HQ of the General Staff, a college of national security, a military academy and accommodation for soldiers and senior officers.
The project is consistent with the strategy of extending Israel's de facto sovereignty over the so-called "holy basin" that is adjacent to the Al-Aqsa compound and the Old City of Jerusalem. This is planned to make Jerusalem the headquarters of Israel's security, military and political authorities in order to be declared to be the "capital of the Jewish people" in 2020, at which stage there will be no place for the Palestinians.
A specialist in settlement affairs said that the plan contravenes international conventions and even Israel's own planning and building regulations. Researcher Ahmed Laban pointed out that the proposed college complex is in occupied East Jerusalem, on the Palestinian side of the old Green Line. This, he added, is intended as yet another settlement in the heart of the Palestinian suburbs of Jerusalem.
The director of the International Jerusalem Centre, an expert in Jerusalem affairs, said that this project is an extension of a series of comprehensive plans started in 2007 to change Jerusalem's mountains into massive military shelters for the Israeli leadership during non-conventional warfare. Hassan Khater confirmed that the Israeli government has already started on projects in other areas in Jerusalem. "The government is building shelters connected to its headquarter and others connected to the official residence of the Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem," he said. "Despite the secrecy and ambiguity surrounding these projects, it is clear that the Israeli government is carrying on with its Judaisation plans to prepare Jerusalem as the capital of the state."
Both Khater and Laban confirmed their belief that the Israelis do not discriminate against Islamic heritage and Muslim residents in Jerusalem, pointing out that Palestinian Muslims and Christians are targeted equally. "Many Christian buildings have been destroyed and others are in danger if these projects go ahead," said Mr. Khater.
Calling on the Palestinian Authority and the international community to take "serious measures" to stop the Judaisation of Jerusalem, both men also asked them to support the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem in their struggle against what is seen as the ethnic cleansing of their city by the Israeli authorities.