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Jerusalem 'to raze 88 Arab homes'
by BBC (reposted)
Wednesday Jun 1st, 2005 10:47 PM
Arab residents of East Jerusalem have been demonstrating against a reported Israeli plan to demolish 88 homes.
Israeli press reports say City Engineer Uri Shetrit is planning the demolitions in the Silwan neighbourhood.

Mr Shetrit is quoted as saying that most of the homes are illegal and he wants to build an archaeological park.

Lawyers say it would be one of the largest demolitions in a single area of Jerusalem since Israel captured the Arab east of the city in 1967.

Some residents say they have received court orders for demolition. They have appealed because their houses pre-date Israel's occupation of the area.

A lawyer for some residents told the BBC that two houses had been knocked down in the past two months.

The area lies just below the walled Old City and near key sites holy to Muslims and Jews.

The Israeli paper Haaretz says the proposed park would connect several Jewish settlement enclaves already established in Silwan to the nearby archaeological area of the City of David.
by more
Wednesday Jun 1st, 2005 10:48 PM
Jerusalem engineer wants to demolish Palestinian homes for national park
01:48 AM EDT Jun 02

JERUSALEM (AP) - The Jerusalem municipality will push ahead with plans to demolish 88 homes in an Arab neighbourhood in the disputed city to make room for a national park, the city engineer overseeing the project told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The plan has infuriated the Palestinians. It comes at a time of growing Israeli-Palestinian tension over the fate of Jerusalem, a city claimed by both as a capital. The demolition campaign, if approved, would be one of the largest in east Jerusalem since Israel captured the traditionally Arab sector in the 1967 Mideast war.

At issue is the Arab neighbourhood of Silwan, just outside the walled Old City and close to key holy sites, such as Islam's Al Aqsa Mosque and Judaism's Western Wall.

City engineer Uri Shetrit said nearly all homes in the part of Silwan marked for demolition had been built in violation of zoning regulations and that courts already issued demolition orders against one-third of the 88 homes. Once the houses are razed, the park will be established "as soon as possible," he added.

Shetrit said the idea is to restore a biblical-era feel to the area that used to be covered with date and chestnut trees.

Palestinian officials warned that violence could flare over house demolitions in Arab neighbourhoods. In the past, disputes over Jerusalem have sparked large-scale Israeli-Palestinian fighting, including the current round that began in 2000.

Shetrit said the area of Silwan targeted for demolition had been declared a "green zone" by Israel in 1974. He said all but seven of the 88 homes were built in the past 12 years, and that the municipality has aerial photos to back up its claim.

Palestinian homeowners said many of the homes in the area were built at least 20 years ago.

Under city regulations, houses built without permits, but older than seven years, cannot be demolished. Shetrit acknowledged that because of this provision, the city would not be able to destroy many of the targeted homes. However, he said residents can be evicted from illegally built houses - and that it is easier to raze homes that stand empty.

"It is my authority and responsibility to enforce the law," Shetrit told AP in a telephone interview. "What would happen in a situation that I didn't act and there was an earthquake or flood and people were killed? Then you would say that the city engineer didn't carry out his responsibility and is a criminal."