Clashes escalate in Silwan

Clashes escalated on Sunday in Silwan, an Israeli Border Police official told YNet that “red lines” have been crossed with reported molotov cocktails being thrown, in addition to stones.

YNet reported that clashes have continued since the announcement a week ago that the Jerusalem municipal planning committee had advanced a proposal to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in Silwan to expand a Jewish tourism complex.

Some six Israeli Border Police and four private Israeli guards were reported injured in clashes with Palestinian residents of this East Jerusalem neighborhood on the southeastern side of the walls of the Old City.

UPDATE: It was later reported [on Monday] that Palestinians had successfully repelled, overnight, an attempt by Israeli settlers to remove them from a structure in Silwan used as a home for Palestinian families for over half a century.

There are no reports, yet, of Palestinian casualties on Sunday just after nightfall though Ma’an News Agency reported that “additional forces of undercover units arrived on the scene, firing rubber-coated bullets and tear-gas canisters to disperse the locals who had gathered”. This story can be read in full here.

The previous night [overnight Saturday to Sunday], some 23 Palestinians were injured, including one shot by live ammunition, Ma’an reported here.  The same Ma’am report said that Palestinian medics “had to treat patients in the field as Israeli forces would not allow ambulances to leave the area”.

UPDATE: It was reported today that as a result of his injuries in these clashes, one of the Palestinian wounded had to undergo surgery in a hospital in East Jerusalem to remove one of his eyes. This is also reported by Hagit Ofran, Peace Now’s settlement watch director, on her blog here.

YNET on Sunday night quoted a senior Border Police official as saying: “The rioters will be arrested … A red line was crossed here in terms of violent disturbances of the peace against civilians and police. We will catch the rioters, and the defense establishment will bring them to justice.”   This is posted here.

The same YNet article has now been updated to report that “Nasrin Alian, of the Association for Civil Rights, said dozens of Palestinians were hurt in the clashes. ‘The settlers’ security guards abuse the residents, because of MK Uri Ariel’s threat that if Abu-Nab [n.b. – a house inhabited by Palestinians that was a synagogue before 1948] was not evacuated by July 4 they will clear it themselves’, she said”. It also says that ” Avner, a left-wing activist in contact with the Arab residents, said police were trying to create a provocation in order to keep from evicting the residents of Beit Yehonatan” [the seven-story building built in Silwan by an Israeli settler organization and inhabited by Jewish families protected by constant armed guard; it was built without permits and in violation of municipal codes for maximum building height, and an Israeli court affirmed last week an earlier verdict that Beit Yehonatan must be sealed and evacuated…]

We reported on this earlier here.

Meantime, YNet reported separately, bulldozers arrived at the site of the Shepherd’s Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, to the north-east of the Old City, apparently to begin construction of a planned 20 homes for Jewish families, despite pledges to the U.S. Administration that there would be no “provocations” at least during the four-month “proximity” talks [if not through final-stage negotiations, as Akiva Eldar wrote today in Haaretz] being managed by Special Envoy George Mitchell, who is due back to the region this week for further consultations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has been invited to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on 6 July.

Earlier Sunday, Akiva Eldar reported in Haaretz that “The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee …will publish in the coming weeks a new blueprint program for development in Jerusalem that will include plans to expand Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Most of the land earmarked for this expansion is privately owned by Arabs. If the plan is approved, after objections to it are heard, it will grant official approval to an urban plan for the Israeli takeover of East Jerusalem”.  Eldar noted that the plan was first advanced in the committee in October 2008. After that. Eldar wrote, “Mayor Nir Barkat ordered adjustments to the blueprint plan in line with his support for broadening Jewish presence in the Holy Basin in East Jerusalem … A spokesman for the Jerusalem municipality confirmed that ‘in the coming weeks the plan will be brought for discussion before the district committee. A statement from the Interior Minister’s office said that ‘there are discussions at a professional level in order to approve the plan’.”  Akiva Eldar’s story is posted on the Haaretz website here.

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