Breaking news: Ratifying the settlement project “Kedem” in Silwan
March 23, 2016

The District Council for Planning and Building ratified on Wednesday night the project of Elad settlement organization known as “Kedem project- City of David- Old City of Jerusalem” which is intended to be established at the entrance of Wadi Hilweh in Silwan south of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center explained in a statement that the District Council’s ratification of the settlement project came after an urgent session was held at the council’s headquarters yesterday in which the locals of Wadi Hilweh withdrew from in protest against racial dealing with them after members of the District Committee interrupted them when they were talking about the harm resulting from establishing a settlement compound on their lands without paying any attention to their needs; the session also lacked an Arabic interpreter.

Lawyer Sami Arshid explained that the District Council rejected on Wednesday night all the appeals and objections submitted against “Kedem” project, and cancelled the decision of the Appeals Commission in the Supreme Planning Council which canceled the project, and made the District Committee’s decision of approving the project in 2014 effective.

The lawyer also added that the District Council’s decision was briefed in two pages. It cancelled the Appeals Committee’s decision issued in June 2014 which had 140 pages, and did not explain any legal or planning reasons to adopt this project.

Arshid pointed out that the District Council requested to hear the appeals submitted within 4 hours only and gave each presentation 15 minutes only which was considered not enough time; note that previous presentation during the last hearing were for two days, eight hours a day.

Arshid added that the locals of Wadi Hilweh, Eir Amim and Amiq Shafeh institutions and a group of Israeli academics had submitted their appeals to the District Committee’s decision to ratify the project in 2014. After hearing the objections by the appeals committee, the project was rejected.

Arshid added that the District Council’s decision was purely political and illegal as the council discussed the appeals again which is a procedure that rarely happens showing that political interference at the highest levels took place to carry out this session in a new attempt to implement the settlement project while neglecting the needs of Silwan and the harm the project causes.

Arshid confirmed he will submit an appeal to the Israeli courts to request the cancellation of the District Council’s decision and adopt the Appeals Commission’s decision.

According to the plan of Elad settlement organization, the project aims at building a tourist building of 5 floors (9000 square meters) to be used by the scientists and Israeli Antiquities Department in addition to building conference rooms and educations rooms as well as parking lots for settlers and tourists. The building will also include commercial stores and offices for Elad organization.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center and Wadi Hilweh Committee denounced in a joint statement the ratification of the Elad settlement project which will be established at the entrance of the neighborhood.

Wadi Hilweh Locals’ Committee denounced the District Council’s response to the political interference regarding the project which only serves settlement goals. After 9 months of rejecting the project, a new session will be held to discuss the appeals and objections submitted at the same time when Elad organizations continue their excavation works in the neighborhood in preparation for the project.

The center also added that ratifying the project will be the first step of ratifying similar settlement project s in Silwan which is considered an important area historically and religiously while neglecting the native residents and land owners that suffer on a daily basis from the settlement outposts in their neighborhoods.

The center and committee also warned from implementing such a huge project across from the southern wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque and requested the UNESCO to immediately interfere because this project will affect a historic city listed under monuments at risk. They also appealed for the international community to support the locals of Silwan and prevent this project from being implemented.

The committee added that the settlement project will be established on the lands of the residents of Silwan which were used as farms until Jerusalem was occupied in 1967. After the occupation, the Israeli authorities confiscated the lands and demolished two rooms that were owned by Abdo family and then turned it into a parking lot. In 2003, Elad settlement organization took control of the lands and started planning for the implementation of the settlement project. The carried out continuous excavations in the area of “Dung Gate” and demolished an Islamic cemetery that was 1200 years old in addition to demolishing Umayyad, Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman ruins such as rooms, poles and arches and only left a few of them claiming they are they “ruins of the Second Temple”.