Palestinians in Village Near Jerusalem Block Home Demolition

Residents of al-Walaja say demolition orders on the rise, accuse Israel police of collective punishment in East Jerusalem

Children on the streets of Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem on August 9, 2017.
Tali Meir

Residents of a Palestinian village near Jerusalem on Thursday prevented the demolition by Israeli authorities of an illegally built home. The residents, who gathered around the house and blocked the heavy machinery, say the village has seen a rise in demolition orders against it.

Al-Walaja, located southwest of Jerusalem, partly lies within Jerusalem’s borders and partly in the West Bank, under Palestinian jurisdiction.

In the past year, a Jerusalem district planning panel issued demolition orders to 30 buildings in the village. Seven of them had been demolished, 14 are pending demolition after a district court had rejected petitions to prevent the demolitions, and the remaining orders are still at different stages of legal proceedings.

Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher with Ir Amim, a nonprofit that advocates for “a more equitable and sustainable” Jerusalem, estimates that the homes of half of the 100 families living in the part of the village under Jerusalem’s jurisdiction are under threat of being demolished. In addition, Israel recently completed the construction of the security barrier, which surrounds the village on three sides, and separates it from many of its lands.

Palestinian residents of Jerusalem protest an increase in enforcement in the eastern part of the city, saying it was discriminatory and accuse authorities of collective punishment.

Meanwhile, on Friday an evacuation order against a Palestinian family in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah will come into effect. A demonstration is slated to take place there Friday afternoon. Diplomats and senior Palestinian officials visited the family this week.

In Silwan, some roads were closed off for vehicles after firebombs were thrown in the area. In the area of the Old City, the municipality has started giving parking tickets in areas where it previously hadn’t. On Wednesday, two buildings were demolished in Jabal Mukkaber, and another in Beit Hanina.

“This pressure will only cause an explosion,” Daoud Siam, an East Jerusalem resident, says. “People are under enormous pressure, there’s no carrot, just stick.”

Police said in response that “an attempt to label law enforcement activities that are intended to maintain public order, the rule of law and the security of the citizens of Israel as ‘collective punishment’ is baseless and detached from reality.

“Recently, and especially since the terror incident on the Temple Mount, which killed two border policemen, police have faced dozens of riots and violent disturbances in East Jerusalem villages. During this period, there were 65 incidents in which firebombs were thrown at police and civilians and 273 incidents of stone-throwing in almost 100 sites.”

Police said it was taking measures to “restore order,” including carrying out “arrests of key rioters under arrest warrants issued by the court.”