Mounting Uptick in Eviction and Demolition Orders in Old City and Historic Basin Cause for Heightened Attention

Over the last several weeks, Jerusalem has witnessed a renewed spate of demolitions and demolition orders, mostly in the Historic Basin, along with a mounting wave of evictions in the Old City and surrounding neighborhoods.  About 105 units have come under new or renewed threat of demolition – out of thousands of outstanding orders – and more than 100 families are at risk of eviction in the Old City and Silwan alone.  These collective and fast unfolding developments signify a steep increase over last year and a clear pattern of using demolitions and evictions to displace Palestinians from the city. 
While major Israeli building and construction projects in East Jerusalem – including hundreds of new units now under construction in Har Homa and Ramat Shlomo – remain a focus of concern and call for vigilant monitoring, it is important to recognize that government-supported private settlement within Palestinian neighborhoods and an upsurge in demolitions, threatened demolitions and evictions merits comparable attention.
Recent developments include:
Old City and Historic Basin
  • In the Al-Sa’adiyeh neighborhood of the Muslim Quarter, the Qureshi family faces eviction after recently losing an appeal in the District Court.  Settlers occupied part of the house in 2010, after which they launched a legal case challenging the family’s protected tenancy status.  The family has been ordered to pay NIS 200,000 and has until June 1 to evacuate the premises.  They have now submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court.
  • May 5 - In the al-Khalidiya section of the Muslim Quarter, settlers attempted to take over the home of the Zalum family by force, changing the lock on the door.  Mr. Zalum was arrested for replacing the lock and was released only after presenting Court documents verifying the contested status of the home to the police.  The family lost its appeal in the District Court and is now preparing to advance its case to the Supreme Court.
  • May 9 – Early in the morning, settlers entered a 3 floor building in the Al- Sa’adiyeh section of the Muslim Quarter previously owned by the Yozbishi family and apparently purchased by the settlers.  No further details are available at this time.
  • Early April – Ir Amim field researchers observed settlers breaking ground on infrastructure works in an area long sought by the Amana settler organization for a new building in Sheikh Jarrah intended to house their offices.  Several months prior to a February 2014 report issued by Ir Amim, Amana had requested building permits, indicating the probable launch of construction.  Now efforts are underway to permanently house the headquarters of Amana – primarily responsible for large scale settlement projects in the West Bank – on land expropriated by the Israel Land Authority in a Palestinian neighborhood.
  • In the Ein Al-Loza section of Silwan, approximately 50 homes are under risk of demolition and orders have already been served on about a dozen homes.  Neighborhood residents had submitted a plan to change the status of the area, now demarcated as green, in order to allow for permitted building.  When the planning committees rejected the plan, the Jerusalem Local Court discontinued its freeze on demolition orders.
  • Al Bustan (Silwan) – In the area planned for the King’s Garden, 56 homes are under threat of demolition and 18 orders were recently renewed.

Batan al-Hawa (Silwan) – This congested and severely under-resourced neighborhood in Silwan is likely to become the location of the largest settlement in the Historic Basin. The site of an Ateret Cohanim settler stronghold, it is strategically positioned between the Ma’ale Zeitim settlement in Ras al-Amud and the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood of Silwan.  Since obtaining two parcels of land by the Israeli General Custodian, the settler organization has been waging a wholesale campaign to take over the neighborhood, putting some 100 Palestinian families at risk of eviction and heightening friction between the local population and settlers and security forces in a densely populated area in the heart of Silwan.  Seventeen families have already been evicted and active legal cases are being pursued against an additional 51 families.  Beyond the immediate human toll, bolstering the ring of private settlements around the Old City undermines the possibility of a future political solution in Jerusalem.    
In addition to this cluster of activities in the Old City and Historic Basin:
Wallajeh -- Beyond plans to complete the Separation Barrier around this historic village on the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem and to further insulate it with 1,200 dunams of national park land along its northern edge, Wallajeh is now facing a wave of demolition orders after a period of 6 years (since first construction on the Barrier) during which no orders were issued. On May 2, Israeli building inspectors issued orders for stop of construction and/or demolition on 8 houses located in the area of the village annexed to East Jerusalem.  All of the targeted homes were vacant and are in various stages of construction. The demolitions were to take place 24 hours after conveyance of the orders but lawyers were able to win a freeze on execution of demolitions until the Jerusalem Local Court is able to review appeals. On May 10, one of the homes – on which no legal action has been taken – was demolished by the authorities
Several weeks ago Ir Amim reported on demolition orders on 6 houses within the annexed area of Jerusalem, 3 of which were carried out 30 hours after issuance of the orders. These were the first demolitions in Wallajeh since Israel started construction of the Separation Barrier there in 2010 and the first non-punitive demolitions in the Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the Barrier.
The recent orders indicate a change of policy regarding demolitions in Wallajeh, with grave consequences for the village.  In 2009, the Israeli planning committees refused to approve a master plan for the village, making it impossible to obtain building permits.  Dozens of homes are now at risk of receiving demolition orders.
Ras Khamis – The Jerusalem Municipality has served demolition orders on 13 high rise buildings (a minimum of 300 units) in this neighborhood beyond the Separation Barrier after residents lost their legal appeal at the district administrative court, exhausting the freeze imposed by the court.  Demolitions could be executed at any time.