Israeli settlers take over home in Jerusalem’s Silwan

Settlers take over an apartment in Palestinian neighbourhood as the Jerusalem municipality hands out demolition orders.

This file photo from June 2021 shows the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, just outside the Old City in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, and the Jewish cemetary on the Mount of Olives. [File: Thomas Coex/AFP]

Occupied East Jerusalem – Israeli settlers from the Elad settler group have taken over a Palestinian home in the Silwan neighbourhood, south of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The second-floor apartment, located in the Wadi al-Rababa area of Silwan, a Palestinian neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, was home to Nidal Froukh and his family.

His brother Bilal owns the property, having purchased it from his father in 1989, the Silwan-based Wadi Helweh Information Center told Al Jazeera.

Bilal reportedly told the Wadi Helweh Information Center that settlers, accompanied by Israeli forces, stormed Nidal’s apartment on Wednesday while he and his family were out. He said family members were beaten and sprayed with tear gas. The settlers took over the home on the pretext that Nidal owed “accumulating debts”, he added.

A video circulating on social media appeared to show Israeli forces assaulting members of the Froukh family.

“I own the property, and I will follow up the file to get the settlers out of the property,” Bilal was quoted as saying.

“It’s not clear what happened yet, but the entrance of the settlers appears illegal – at the least Bilal Froukh should have been notified prior, because Nidal – his brother – is a tenant and not an owner,” Jawad Siam from the Wadi Helweh Information Center, told Al Jazeera.

Silwan, home to at least 60,000 Palestinians, has long been targeted by Israeli settler groups, including Elad and Ateret Cohanim, which have forcibly displaced Palestinian families under the pretext of their homes being on land previously owned by Jewish individuals. Other Palestinian families have been displaced as a result of Israeli religious, archaeological and touristic infrastructure projects in the area, such as the “City of David” and the “Garden of the King”.

In some cases, Palestinian residents have been forced to share homes with settlers.

Under Israeli law, if Jews can prove that their families lived in East Jerusalem before the establishment of Israel in 1948, they can request the “return” of their property, even if Palestinian families have been living there for decades.

The law only applies to Israelis, and Palestinians do not have the same rights under it.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT-JERUSALEM A picture taken on October 21, 2014 shows the Dome of the Rock in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound (L) and the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan,
This file photo from October 2014 shows the Dome of the Rock in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound (L) and the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan [File: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images]

Home demolition orders

Separately on Wednesday, the Jerusalem municipality demolished the remainders of a Palestinian home in the Ein al-Lozeh area of Silwan, and handed out demolition orders to 11 other Palestinian homes, according to Siam.

The demolished home belonged to Mohammed Matar, who had previously demolished the property himself in August after receiving an order from the municipality.

“He thought he was done. He was surprised when the tractors came to continue the demolition,” Siam told Al Jazeera.

The 11 demolition orders were given to families in the Bustan area of Silwan, where residents are severely restricted from construction, and where most of the families are at risk of forced displacement, due to Israel’s ongoing park project there.

“The al-Bustan area has demolition orders for practically the whole neighbourhood – there are only a few homes that will survive,” Siam told Al Jazeera.

The Israeli government has allocated only 13 percent of occupied East Jerusalem, much of which is already built-up areas, for Palestinian construction while 35 percent is zoned for illegal Israeli settlements, and another 29 percent for “green areas” such as “national parks”.

Palestine-based rights group Al Haq says “Silwan serves as a dynamic example of the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people and the confiscation of their property.”

“In addition to Israel’s discriminatory planning and zoning regime, which creates unbearable living conditions for Palestinians in Jerusalem, Silwan has been the site of aggressive Government-supported settlement activities carried out by private Israeli settler organisations.

As a result, house demolitions and forced evictions at the hands of the Israeli occupying forces have become routine for Palestinians in Silwan.”

Source: Al Jazeera