Sunday, 15 April 2001
demolition orders could spark new violence, warns PA minister
By Amira Hass
Ha'aretz Palestinian Affairs Correspondent
Between the start of the year and March 22, Jerusalem Municipality issued 21 orders to destroy buildings erected without permits in the city. Two of the condemned structures are on Givat Shaul, in West Jerusalem and the rest are in the east part of the city and the owners are Palestinians.
"If the Jerusalem municipality carries out the orders it issued recently to raze the structures, it spark the outbreak of demonstrations and acts of opposition by the Palestinian public in East Jerusalem," warned Faisal Husseini, Jerusalem Minister in the Palestinian Authority.
Most of the orders were issued in March.
These are administrative orders, enabling the municipal authorities to carry out the demolitions within 30 days of the document's delivery to the family, and without the involvement of any legal process.
According to the Meretz representative on the municipal council, Meir Margalit, the municipality is planning to execute a number of the orders tomorrow and demolish five homes in Um Tuva.
The Jerusalem Municipality spokesman has, however, denied any plans to carry out the demolition orders in the near future in an interview to Army Radio.
Husseini says that "while the first spark to the current Intifada was caused in Jerusalem, during the majority of the months of the Intifada, there has been relative calm in the city and that is thanks to the fact that the Israeli authorities avoided carrying out provocative actions."
Husseini says that the return of the demolition policy suggests a return to "provocative actions."
The Palestinian minister emphasizes that neither the Jerusalem municipality, nor the Israeli state have ended their discriminatory policies in granting Palestinians with building permits.
According to sources at the Orient House, which effectively acts as the nerve center of Palestinian Authority representation in the capital, the plans to raze the homes are meant to prevent the families who built them from entering a long legal battle with the municipal authority.
The five homes at Um Tuva are strategically situated on the planned eastern ring road of the capital. If they are destroyed soon, the construction of the road can go ahead, while any delay may result in a legal clash which may put off plans for the ring road.
The other Palestinian homes on line for demolition are situated in Bet Hanina, Shuafat, Ras al-Amud, Tzur Bahar, Wadi Juz and Abu Tur.
One of the homes scheduled for demolition, belonging to the Akl family, and situated on French Hill, was postponed by the Jerusalem District Court, "pending a different decision."
The family demolished their old home on the site, a decade ago, and built a new home. They were not aware that the Jerusalem municipality required that they file for a new permit to build a new home over an old one.
The location of the Akl family's home resulted from a relocation which occurred following 1948 from their village of Lifta.
The family property was confiscated in 1967. Among other structures built there, the Hebrew University built some of its student dormitories, and the Hyatt hotel.
A demolition order was issued in May, last year, and the family has been involved in a legal battle since. They are convinced that the University is behind the push to drive them out, even though University sources informed the family attorneys that it has given up on the property.
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Correction: The title given to Mr. Faisal Husseini is incorrect, his title is PLO Executive Committee Member in Charge of Jerusalem Affairs