Photo: The Israeli Occupation Inaugurate a Settlement Tunnel in Wadi Hilweh Neighborhood of Silwan Town
December 27, 2016

The Israeli Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, inaugurated a new tunnel in Wadi Hilweh neighborhood of Silwan on Tuesday, coinciding with the appearance of cracks in residential constructions and the streets of the neighborhood.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan stated that the minister of “Israeli Culture”, Miri Regev, the Israeli mayor Nir Barakat, the director of the Elad settlement association, David Perry, and a number of rabbis have inaugurated a tunnel this afternoon in Wadi Hilweh neighborhood in Silwan. In the meanwhile a celebration was organized for them and they lit the menorah (candlestick) in the tunnel on the occasion of “The Festivals of Light”- Hanukkah.

The Information Center added that Israeli Special Forces and settler guards deployed this afternoon in the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh and closed up some roads in conjunction with the opening of the settlement tunnel. At the presence of the Israeli minister and her entourage, altercations broke out between the Israeli forces and the residents of the town who refused their presence in Wadi Hilweh field, and tried to get them out of it. 

The Center also added that the “Israel Antiquities Authority” and the Elad Settlement Association started working on the tunnel and digging it two years ago; it heads 70 meters north and 70 meters south, and its center is in the middle of Wadi Hilweh neighborhood in the direction of the Mughrabi Gate yard located at the entrance of Wadi Hilweh.

During the inauguration of the tunnel the Israeli minister said: “The opening of the tunnel today is a message for the US President Obama that both east and west Jerusalem are unified for the Jews”.

Cracks in Residential Homes and the Streets of the Neighborhood...

The center said that the opening of the tunnel and the continuous working on tunnels under the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh comes at a time when the authorities have neglected the safety of the population. New and wider cracks appeared in several houses in “Atallah Siam’s district” which holds 22 individuals, where new cracks appeared in most of the rooms in the house, in addition to the widening of old cracks in 40 houses in the neighborhood, as well as the almost daily cracking in their main street.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center- Silwan explained that wide cracks, ruptures and collapses appeared in new areas in the neighborhood’s facilities, in addition to the expansion of old cracks. This coincides with the increase of drawing out large amounts of soil resulted from the excavations beneath the neighborhood and the continuous works of digging using manual and electric tools constantly under the neighborhood.

The center said that the collapses and cracks were showing in the facilities and streets of Wadi Hilweh neighborhood, during the winter season only; however, recently old cracks are expanding and new cracks are appearing throughout the year. This indicates that the occupying authorities have intensified the tunnel operations under the neighborhood, which puts the neighborhood facilities at risk of collapsing at any time.

The center stated that the occupation authorities began digging tunnels under the neighborhood since 2007, but after the residents turned to the Israeli courts they were able to obtain an injunction to stop the works from beneath their homes for 14 months. After that the settlers’ associations were able to adopt a resolution allowing them to continue digging under the condition that it does not cause danger to the residents’ lives, but what happens in the neighborhood is continuous “digging and construction operations” without taking into consideration  the safety of the residents.

Jawad Siyam, director of Wadi Hilweh Information Center, said that the inauguration of the tunnel today comes as a response to the Security Council decision to adopt a resolution demanding that Israel stops building settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and a message to the national community that colonization will continue in the city of Jerusalem.

Siam added: “The inauguration of the tunnel only days after the Security Council's decision, yet again confirms the lack of respect and commitment of the Israeli authorities to national decisions.