Israeli settlement group Elad reportedly took over a Palestinian-owned property in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan yesterday, the Wadi Hilweh Information Centre said.
According to the local NGO, nearly a dozen Elad guards raided a two-story residential building on Al-Ein Street in Silwan belonging to Hani Sarhan yesterday morning while its owners were away in Jordan.
Relatives of Sarhan who live in the area argued with the guards and brought out paperwork attesting to his ownership of the house.
The relatives said that Elad had claimed ownership of the building several years ago after using a Palestinian as a proxy to buy the house from Sarhan then transfer it to the settlement group – a common practice by settler groups wishing to expand their presence in Palestinian-majority areas of East Jerusalem.
Once Sarhan realised the misrepresentation that had taken place, he took the case to Israeli courts and was able to reclaim ownership of the building three years ago, the relatives added, stating that Sarhan was planning to take the matter to court once again upon his return to East Jerusalem.
A spokesperson for Israel’s Jerusalem municipality could not be immediately reached for comment on the case.
On 30 December, Elad took over another building in Silwan, which it said it had purchased using a similar Palestinian “straw man” mechanism.
When asked about the involvement of Israeli police in that case, police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld questioned the validity of the reports, telling Ma’an at the time that Wadi Hilweh Information Centre’s claims that Palestinian property had been taken over by settlers were “not serious” and “irrelevant”.
Jerusalem’s Israeli city planning commission also approved a plan to build a three-story building for Jewish settlers in the heart of Silwan in December, introduced by Israeli pro-settlement nonprofit organisation Ateret Cohanim – the same day the Jerusalem municipality demolished Palestinian-owned structures in the neighbourhood.
The Elad and Ateret Cohanim groups are a strong force in the Israeli settler movement in the occupied East Jerusalem, with Elad leading a takeover of 25 buildings in the neighbourhood of Silwan in 2015, which constituted the largest incursion of Israeli settlers into a Palestinian neighbourhood in the past 20 years, according to the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ).