The Israeli authorities approved plans on Monday to build a new illegal settlement in occupied Jerusalem, Wafa news agency has reported. The project will involve the destruction of Palestinian businesses in Wadi Al-Joz neighbourhood.
Although Israel claims that the new development will be built in "Silicon Valley", local Palestinians point out that it will be built upon the ruins of more than 200 shops and other properties owned by Palestinians. Most of these properties have been there since before the 1967 Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem. At least 500 acres of Palestinian-owned land will be confiscated.
The $600 million project allocates 250,000 square metres to "real estate for high-tech companies" as well as a further 100,000 square metres split between "shopping centres" and "hotels". It falls within the "East Jerusalem City Centre" master project, approved by the Israeli occupation's planning and zoning committee in April. New roads and a light railway are part of the scheme, and a settler park will be constructed near Kedron Valley to the south of the city.
The Israeli authorities have served eviction notices to dozens of Palestinian facilities and shops, giving them until 30 December to leave before the demolitions are carried out. Local Palestinians have warned that the project will further isolate their neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, altering the city's landscape and erasing the historic Arab character of its markets and business districts.
While Israel claims that the project will serve the Palestinians and improve their conditions, the Palestinian Authority has condemned it. The PA pointed out that it is part of Israel's plans to Judaise the city and pave the way for illegal settlers to take over Palestinian lands and businesses.
"Israel's focused and systematic plunder of occupied Jerusalem persists unabated, in violation of international law and proclaimed positions of states worldwide," said Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. "This is an outrageous and criminal plan that will devastate 200 Palestinian businesses in the area and deprive hundreds of Palestinians of their livelihood."
The planning application was approved as Israel prepares to annex large swathes of the West Bank in line with the US-touted "deal of the century", which regards Jerusalem as Israel's capital and endorses the Zionist state's occupation, colonialism and apartheid imposed on the indigenous Palestinian people.