*Demolition in Al-Abbasiya/Silwan in East Jerusalem:
Early morning on June 15, 2010, bulldozers came to Aamer Siyam’s plot of land in the Al Abbasiya neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem. During this operation 3 structures (1 barrack of approximately 100 sq.m. and 2 containers) were demolished and a fourth one, also a container, was confiscated together with 20 chickens and a horse, which according to Aamer cost him 3000 USD. All structures were used to shelter animals.
Another man (who refused to have his names disclosed) rented part of the plot and built a garage. He claimed that apart from the demolition of his property, all his belongings that were inside the garage (including clothes and a fridge) had been confiscated. The structures were not housing anyone. Both men reported to rely on them for their livelihood. In the case of Aamer, the chickens were used to support his family of 8 people, including 6 children ranging from 2 – 17 years of age (OCHA).
Aamer and the garage owner, who rented part of the plot, said the garage was built 5-6 months prior to the demolition. Both men claimed to have never received any demolition order. According to eye-witnesses around 30 Jeeps, a bulldozer and 50 policemen were present at the site. The police sealed off the entrance to the plot preventing any access the site.
*Demolition in Ath Thuri, East Jerusalem:
On the same day a further demolition took place in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Ath Thuri. According to OCHA a garage was demolished measuring approximately 24 sq.m. used to repair cars. The financial consequences this demolition will have on the family is still unclear. However according to the owner of the garage the family has already received a municipal fine demanding him to cover the cost for the demolition.
The demolition site in Ath Thuri is adjacent to the neighbourhood of Silwan, where the first demolition occurred. The area of Silwan is one of the areas in East Jerusalem that is marked by high political tension and frequent clashes. The increasing Jewish presence in the neighbourhood has become alarming, counting approximately 60-70 Jewish settler families currently living in various areas of the neighbourhood (Ir Amim, 2009).
*Home Demolitions in East Jerusalem:
Numerous demolition orders have been issued in Silwan since 2009,
among them 89 in the “Al-Bustan” area (the garden). Here the Jerusalem Municipality is planning to construct a tourist park on top of these houses. The plan is strongly supported by Mayor Nir Barkat claiming that this area used to be the garden of King David and therefore needs to be reconstructed for tourists, without taking into consideration the more than 1000 people who are at risk of displacement. Another area in Silwan at risk of mass demolitions is “Al Abbasiya” where two apartment buildings, housing 250 people, have received demolition orders in March 2009 (ICAHD, 2009).
Demolitions in Silwan are not new. They began the 1990s and have continued at a slow pace. In 2009, 47 houses were demolished, leaving 256 people homeless (B’Tselem). The Jerusalem municipality generally justified demolitions due to the Absentee Land Law and illegal construction i.e. “building without a permit” or building on land that has been declared “open green space.”
Nevertheless, those demolitions remain unlawful in regard to the 53 article of the 4th Geneva Convention, which states that “any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.” It is obvious that the demolitions undertaken by Israel do not conform this condition. They are in fact used by Israel as a tool to control Palestinian population, which is under constant pressure and uncertainty of losing their homes. OCHA reported that on an annual basis just over 100 permits are issued by the Jerusalem Municipality to the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, leaving a gap of 1,100 housing units per year between housing needs and issued building permits (OCHA, April 2009).
We urge you to join us in making an end to these measures in order to achieve a sustainable and just peace. Please contact your parliamentarians and congressional representatives to demand their action on the issue.
If you require any more information on house demolitions in East Jerusalem or ideas of how to get involved, please contact the ICAHD office and see the following for more information about Silwan and East Jerusalem: