Israeli settlers raided the Wadi Hilweh area of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem after midnight Friday morning and took over a Palestinian-owned residential building there, allegedly for the purposes of the Elad settlement group.
According to eyewitness accounts documented by local organization the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, approximately 20 Israeli settlers escorted by masked Israeli special forces raided the building while its residents were not inside.
Israeli settlers blocked off the al-Fakhouri area of the neighborhood with a truck, preventing people from approaching, and took control of the building, which is located less than a hundred meters south of the Old City’s walls and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
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The center said that the building has changed ownership between three Palestinian families over the years — the Abu Irmeileh, Maswadeh, and al-Rajabi families — and that several other families rented space in the building, which consists of two 16-square meter space floors.
They added that a Palestinian woman changed the locks to the building on Thursday, and that late Thursday night, Israeli settlers raided Wadi Hilweh to install surveillance cameras at the entrance of the neighborhood.
When asked about the involvement of Israeli forces in the raid, Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld questioned the validity of the reports, telling Ma’an that Wadi Hilweh Information Center’s claims that Palestinian property had been taken over by settlers were “not serious” and “irrelevant.”
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A spokesperson for Israel’s Jerusalem municipality could not be immediately reached for comment on the case, or whether ownership of the building had been transferred to Elad.
The right-wing Elad group is a strong force in the Israeli settler movement in East Jerusalem, leading a takeover of 25 buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan last year, which constituted the largest incursion of Israeli settlers into a Palestinian neighborhood in the past 20 years, according to the the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ).
Also known as the Ir David Foundation, Elad aims to “rediscover and preserve the Biblical city of David,” in an effort to connect Jews to their Biblical roots through tourism, archaeological excavation, and “Judaizing Jerusalem” by buying out homes in Palestinian majority neighborhoods.
In March, an Israeli building council approved plans for Elad’s Kedem project, despite over a decade of appeals against the move by Palestinian residents and Israeli rights organizations.
(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)