The Jerusalem municipality demolished on Monday a house in the Palestinian neighborhood of Isawiyah, six months after an official at the Shin Bet security service threatened a local man who works for the Islamic trust that manages Muslim sites in the city, also known as the Waqf.
The Shin Bet coordinator told the Waqf employee that he was making trouble, and that "there's a 90 percent chance that your house will be demolished."
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In 2018, the city issued a demolition order for the house, which is home to 17 residents, because it was built without a permit. But Jerusalem has frozen home demolitions for over a year in order to advance a new master plan that is expected to retroactively authorize most of the houses in the neighborhood.
The resident, Fadi Alian, is in charge of the guards on the Temple Mount under the Waqf. In recent years, the guards have regularly clashed with Jews who go up on the Temple Mount, as well as the police who accompany them. In a conversation between Alian and Captain Ali, who is known to residents as the Shin Bet coordinator for Isawiyah, the latter reproached Alian for his activities at the holy site.
“Listen to my advice and relax, we don’t need problems and we don’t need any of this. I know about your problems with the government, 90 percent [chance] there will be a demolition, "Captain Ali was heard telling Alian.
Alian found it hard to understand the link between both issues. He told the captain that there was no problem, and that they were going through the courts. The Shin Bet coordinator responded, “I’m following the matter and following your problems, they told me that there is a problem with demolishing the house.” Later Alian said he was doing his job on the Temple Mount, and in response the coordinator said: “Your job is not to cause trouble.” The Shin Bet denies that this phone call had any bearing on the decision to demolish the home.
According to Isawiyah residents, police told prominent activists in the neighborhood that if Alian were to quit his job, then perhaps the demolition could be prevented. "None of the houses in Isawiyah have permits," Alian told Haaretz. "We didn't build this house yesterday; we've been living here for 12 years." He added, "They could let us keep living here, but they got orders from someone more powerful than them." He claims that the police and Shin Bet are harassing him because of his job, and that they pressured the city to demolish his home. In the past, Alian was arrested for assaulting a police officer on the Temple Mount.
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As in many other parts of East Jerusalem, most of the houses in Isawiyah were built without permits due to the difficulties in obtaining building permits in Palestinian neighborhoods. This means that many of them have received demolition orders. About a year ago, Jerusalem mayor Moshe Leon announced a freeze on demolitions in Isawiyah as a confidence-building measure with the residents. The move was intended to enable the approval of a new master plan for the neighborhood, which would allow granting permits to most of the houses.
The plan was approved by the local planning committee and is now awaiting the approval of the regional committee. But in the meantime, the city has renewed demolition proceedings against a number of structures, the first of which was Alian's family home. The parents, their four children and 11 grandchildren lived in the two-story home. The demolition order was extended due to the claim that the house would possibly receive a permit according to the new plan.
The city recently announced its intention to demolish the house, and the Supreme Court denied the family’s petition against the move last week.
On Sunday, the court for local affairs denied an additional request to delay the demolition, and the next day two bulldozers, accompanied by a large number of police officers, arrived. Over the course of two hours, the house was destroyed, down to the foundations. The family had removed all their belongings beforehand.
After the demolition, residents hung Palestinian flags on the house and clashed with police officers who had come to take them down. Neighborhood resident Mohammed Abu Hummus sustained light injuries when hit in the stomach by a foam-tipped bullet during the confrontations, and was taken for medical treatment.
“There are dozens of houses like this in East Jerusalem with a judicial demolition order,” said Sami Ershied, the lawyer who represents the family. “This house is no different from other cases.” Ershied said that the “Kaminitz Law,” which was intended to increase the punishment for illegal construction, limits the courts' ability to postpone demolition orders.
In similar cases in the past, when a master plan was in advanced stages of approval, judges would take into consideration the chances of receiving a permit, and would delay the demolition.
The Shin Bet said: “Mr. Fadi Alian’s house was demolished because its construction was not accompanied by the legal permits, and without any connection to the Israel Security Agency."
The attempt to link the housing demolition with the telephone call six months ago "in which arose, among other things concerning Mr. Alian, issues of the legal proceedings regarding the demolition of his house, is mistaken and tendentious and does not reflect what happened.”