Israel Begins Demolishing Palestinian Homes in East Jerusalem Neighborhood

Supreme Court rejected families’ appeal that Jerusalem Municipality discriminated against them and they had no choice but to build illegally ■ Neighborhood includes some 60 buildings and is home to 500 residents

Residents of the Wadi Yetzol section of East Jerusalem’s Silwan whose homes were built without  a permit, Israel, April 13, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Large forces of police and Jerusalem city officials began demolishing Wednesday morning Palestinians homes in the Wadi Yetzol section of East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood on the outskirts of the Old City of Jerusalem.  

The police have demolished two houses so far and the neighborhood residents said they fear more houses will be demolished.

Palestinian witnesses said several residents were wounded in clashes with the security forces during the demolition.

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According to a district court decision from three weeks ago and a Supreme Court decision earlier this week, the municipality was granted the right to demolish all the houses in the neighborhood – amounting to some 60 buildings, home to 500 families.

Supreme Court Justice Yosef Elron rejected the residents' appeal of the demolition order at the beginning of this week. Elron ruled that the criminal justice system is not the place to discuss whether or not the Jerusalem municipality discriminated against the residents and avoided planning the neighborhood, which prevented them from getting building permits for their homes.

“I believe the appellants’ claims that the defendant discriminates against local residents and avoided advancing any zoning plan are irrelevant to a discussion in the context of criminal wrongdoing,” he wrote. “From the request in front of me I see that the residents are seeking a zoning plan for their needs and that should be welcome. But these efforts cannot retroactively legitimize so much illegal construction or justify any delay in carrying out demolition orders.”

Wadi Yetzol was built 30 years ago by Palestinians living between Silwan and Abu Tor. They built homes without permits on land that they owned but that was zoned as green areas. They said it’s impossible to get a building permit in East Jerusalem, so they were forced to build against the law.

Last month, the municipality requested to allow the right-wing organization Elad, which operates in east Jerusalem, to receive building permits for illegal building it has constructed in the past.