Israeli settlers have occupied two Palestinian buildings near Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem.
In the early hours of this morning, Israeli settlers stormed a building in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. According to Wafa, the “settlers moved into the building owned by the Joudeh family, which was used as a clinic” in the Aqbat Darwish area, near Al-Aqsa Mosque.
This was the second building in Jerusalem to be taken over in the past two days. Yesterday settlers occupied a building in the Wadi Hilweh area of Silwan, situated just outside the walls of the Old City and below Al-Aqsa Mosque.
This is not the first time these areas have been targeted by illegal Israeli settlers, with Silwan in particular repeatedly facing attempts to drive Palestinian inhabitants from their homes. The “City of David” national park – a tourist site and archaeological dig run by right-wing settler group City of David Foundation (also known as Elad) – is situated in Batan Al-Hawa in Silwan and is frequently used as justification for such illegal activity.
In July, the Israeli Knesset advanced a new law that would allow residential construction in the “City of David” national park. According to a report by Haaretz, “the minutes of the [Elad] committee’s previous meeting in January made it clear that Elad and its leader, David Beeri, are behind the bill, which is designed to promote construction at the site.”
In August a “heritage centre” was opened in the park, with the inauguration attended by senior Israeli and US figures. A Palestinian resident of Silwan, Yakoub Al-Rajabi, explained that: “We know that this was a well-orchestrated plan to force us to leave […] And if we stay, it will paralyse us and isolate us in our homes”.
Since 2002, 700 Palestinians have been facing eviction from their land in Batan Al-Hawa. Their land was transferred to the Benvenisti Trust when Israel’s Justice Ministry issued title deeds to the organisation for the land in question. The trust is controlled by Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing organisation that encourages Jewish Israelis to settle illegally in Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.
In June, Israel admitted that its decision to evict the Palestinians of Batan Al-Hawa was “flawed” and that it had not properly investigated the nature of the trust, or the Ottoman-era law that applies to the case. Despite the admission, a number of families have already been evicted from Batan Al-Hawa or are embroiled in court battles to save their homes.
Other areas of Jerusalem are also targeted for illegal Israeli settlement. According to statistics from the Jerusalem Institute, as of 2015 there were some 211,000 Jewish Israelis living in occupied East Jerusalem, amounting to 40 per cent of all inhabitants in these neighbourhoods. The statistics also demonstrate that the number of Israelis living in illegal Jerusalem settlements has grown consistently since the city was occupied in 1967.