The Israeli occupation authorities yesterday started to bulldoze a 5,000 square metre plot of land owned by the Greek Orthodox Church in occupied Jerusalem’s Silwan neighbourhood, the Wadi Hilweh Information Centre has reported. The operators of the bulldozers were protected by a large number of Israeli occupation security forces and police.
According to the centre, the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority as well as settler organisations commissioned the bulldozers to uproot fruit-bearing trees and level the land. Illegal settlers and police seized the land on 22 December. The Jewish settlers fenced it off and installed surveillance cameras under police protection.
When Silwan residents rushed to the scene to stop the land theft, they were assaulted by security forces, said the centre, which monitors Israeli violations in the area. The land is owned by the Greek Orthodox Monastery in Silwan, which is part of the city’s Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
Silwan is home to more than 60,000 Palestinians and is located strategically to the south of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The area has been the target of Israeli settler expansion for years, with hundreds of Palestinian families facing the threat of expulsion, either through lawsuits by powerful settler groups or administrative eviction orders by the Israeli-run Jerusalem municipality.
Middle East Eye has reported that the Greek Orthodox Church has been criticised heavily by Palestinian groups for its dealings with settlers and allegations of bribery and fraud. In 1951, church-owned land in West Jerusalem was rented to the Jewish National Fund for a period of 99 years. Today, the land houses most Israeli state institutions, including Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.