Israeli settlers raided the Wadi Hilweh area of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem after midnight this morning and took over a Palestinian-owned residential building.
According to eyewitness accounts documented by local organisation the Wadi Hilweh Information Centre, approximately 20 Israeli settlers escorted by masked Israeli special forces raided the building while its residents were not inside.
The settlers blocked off the Al-Fakhouri area of the neighbourhood with a truck, preventing people from approaching, and took control of the building, which is located less than 100 metres south of the Old City’s walls and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
The centre said that the building has changed ownership between three Palestinian families over the years – the Abu Irmeileh, Maswadeh and Al-Rajabi families – and that several other families rented space in the building, which consists of two 16-square metre space floors.
They added that a Palestinian woman changed the locks to the building yesterday, and that late last night, Israeli settlers raided Wadi Hilweh to install surveillance cameras at the entrance of the neighbourhood.
When asked about the involvement of Israeli forces in the raid, Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld questioned the validity of the reports, telling Ma’an that Wadi Hilweh Information Centre’s claims that Palestinian property had been taken over by settlers were “not serious” and “irrelevant”.
A spokesperson for Israel’s Jerusalem municipality could not be immediately reached for comment on the case, or whether ownership of the building had been transferred to the settler group Elad.
The right-wing Elad group is a strong force in the Israeli settler movement in East Jerusalem, leading a takeover of 25 buildings in Silwan last year, according to the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ).
Also known as the Ir David Foundation, Elad aims to “rediscover and preserve the Biblical city of David,” in an effort to connect Jews to their Biblical roots through tourism, archaeological excavation and “Judaising Jerusalem” by buying out homes in Palestinian majority neighbourhoods.