The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem issued evacuation orders for three apartments blocks in the Wadi Hilweh area of the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan yesterday evening, due to fractures and cracks formed at the base of the houses, as Israeli authorities continue work on a tunnel network expected to be used to provide services to Israeli settlers.
According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Centre the houses belong to Hamed Oweida, Abed Oweida and Suleiman Oweida.
Sixteen family members, including ten children, reside in the properties.
The Oweida family said that Israel’s tunnel-digging under their homes has increased over the past three days, adding that loud noises from the digging lasts for several hours at a time causing their homes to shake.
Large cracks have appeared throughout the properties along the walls and at their base.
The family added that they had called the Israeli police, who had then summoned a municipality team to inspect the houses. After taking photographs and inspecting the damage, an architect for the municipality decided to issue an emergency order for the families to evacuate and seal the houses, declaring them too dangerous for habitation.
Suleiman Oweida left his house several days ago after cracks in the walls began to get larger.
The information centre said that Israeli authorities were creating a tunnel network for Israeli settlers directly under Oweida’s family house.
Member of the Wadi Hilweh neighbourhood committee Ahmad Qarrain said that the Israeli authorities began work under the neighbourhood in 2007.
The residents at the time appealed to Israeli courts and were able to halt the construction under their homes for 14 months. However, Israeli courts later issued another order allowing the work to continue on the condition that the digging did not endanger the lives of residents.
However, Qarrain said that the digging and work under the houses continued “without any consideration for the safety of residents”, and pointed out that the streets, walls, structures and houses of the neighbourhood have also been fractured and collapsed owing to the tunnel work.
A spokesperson for the Israeli Jerusalem municipality told Ma’an that the municipality had informed the residents that their properties were “unsound and dangerous” out of “concern for their own welfare”, while also being built “without regard for building codes or safety standards”.