At least 20 Jews settlers moved into a 12-apartment building in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan late Wednesday night. The move nearly doubled the number of Jewish settlers in the neighborhood, further heightening tensions between the area’s Arab inhabitants and the Jewish newcomers.
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The settlers replaced the locks on the building two nights ago and brought in household goods early Thursday morning.
Ateret Cohanim, an organization that purchases properties in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem in order to settle Jews in them, sued a few months ago to have the Palestinian owners of the building evicted. Ateret Cohanim bases its claim on the fact that the lot on which the house was built belonged to a hekdesh, a traditional Jewish landowning association. The quarter in which the building is located was home to a Yemenite Jewish community a century ago. Settler activists pressured the building’s residents to leave without being evicted.
According to Palestinian sources in Silwan, the building’s Palestinian owner admitted that he had reached a financial agreement with Ateret Cohanim.
One Palestinian family refused to vacate their apartment, saying their lease was still in effect. According to Palestinian sources, settlers claimed the family’s lease was no longer valid. The family remains in the building.
In recent weeks, the Ateret Cohanim organization went to great lengths to expand Jewish settlement in Silwan. Three months ago, settlers moved into another home in the area, and an eviction order was served on residents of a nearby building. Palestinians in the area said they believed that the appearance of new locks and doors on another nearby building signaled that more settlers can be expected to move in very soon. There are currently about 15 Jewish families living in the area.
Suspected Jewish extremists arrested for violating restraining order
In a related development, two Jewish teens were arrested Thursday, in a community that straddles the Green Line, for allegedly violating a restraining order barring them from entering the West Bank. The circumstances of the arrest remained unclear at press time.
The teenage boys were in Nof Ayalon, where a conference on administrative detention was being held in a community center. In the wake of the fatal arson attack on a home in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31, a number of suspected Jewish activists have been arrested. Three are being held in administrative detention, while administrative orders have been issued against an additional 15 suspects. The restrictions mandated by these orders range in severity from nighttime curfews and house arrest to being barred from entering Jerusalem and/or the West Bank.
Participants in the conference included Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, a founder of the Haredi Nahal army program for ultra-Orthodox men, as well as former Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari and right-wing extremist Baruch Marzel.
“It seems that even a conference against administrative detention is against the Israel Police’s wishes. Unfortunately the police are receiving orders to act as if there are no limits to resources or authorities,” said Shmuel Meidad. The director of Honenu, an organization that is aiding the teens, Meidad took part in the conference.