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Israeli settler plans advance in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah

Construction work on Israeli settlements [Mahfouz Abu Turk/Apaimages]
Construction work on Israeli settlements [Mahfouz Abu Turk/Apaimages]

Israeli authorities in occupied East Jerusalem are advancing plans for settlement expansion in Palestinian neighbourhood Sheikh Jarrah, reported NGO Ir Amim.

A sign was hung Thursday in the Um Harun neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, announcing “that the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee has deposited for public objections plan 14151 for construction of a six story building containing three housing units”.

According to Ir Amim, “examination of the committee’s website indicates that plan 14029, for an additional six story building of ten housing units, has also been deposited for public objections”.

The plans, noted the NGO, include the “demolition of two existing buildings and eviction of five Palestinian families living there today”. The publication for public objections “begins a period of 60 days for submitting objections to the plans”, after which time, “the Jerusalem Planning Committee will discuss objections and decide whether or not to approve the plans”.

Some 45 Palestinian families in the Um Haroun neighbourhood are living under “threat of eviction”. Meanwhile, “the construction of thirteen housing units for settlers will greatly transform Um Haroun and disrupt life for the whole of its community”.

Read: Israel to build 220 settlement units in Jerusalem

Ir Amim described the advancement of the plans as “part of an ongoing uptick in government supported settler projects – taking over of homes, development of national parks and so called touristic projects – in and around the Old City of Jerusalem”.

The purpose of this “increased activity” is “to fragment this Palestinian area of Jerusalem”.

Ir Amim noted that “a wave of eviction lawsuits are now in court, advanced by well-funded and organized settler groups who enjoy both direct and indirect state support”.

#LandGrab

“The legal basis for all of these claims”, said Ir Amim, “is the [1970] Legal and Administrative Matters Law…which determined that Jews who lost property in East Jerusalem in the war of 1948 have the legal right to reclaim it from the Israeli General Custodian”, who manages unclaimed assets.

Meanwhile, however, there is “no parallel legal protection for Palestinians”, with the 1950 Absentee Property Law enshrining that Palestinians who lost their assets in Israel in 1948 “cannot recover them”.

Read: Israel plans to annex 64 acres of Palestinian land for illegal settlement

In addition, most Palestinian families currently at risk of displacement, “hold refugee status from 1948, have legally inhabited their homes since the Jordanian period, and in some cases continue to enjoy protected tenancy status”.

The cases in Sheikh Jarrah “cannot be characterized as isolated disputes over land ownership between heirs and residents; rather, there is a systematic campaign being waged against the Palestinian population, with the end goal of forcibly transferring entire Palestinian communities”.

“These evictions are being advanced by ideologically motivated, well-funded settler groups”, Ir Amim added. “Despite having no verifiable connection to original landowners, these groups have the resources to locate property owners’ heirs and acquire their rights in order to advance their ideological agenda”.

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