The Israeli Knesset will Wednesday debate an urgent motion filed by MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) about the plan to destroy some 90 houses of Palestinian residents in Jerusalem’s Silwan quarter.

Zahalka called the Jerusalem municipality plan a "declaration of war" on the Palestinians of East Jerusalem.

MK Roman Bronfman (Yahad) wrote to Jerusalem City Engineer Uri Sheetrit, urging him to cancel his decision.
"This is an ethnic cleansing and large-scale deportation that boggles the mind," he wrote.

"Such a plan can lead to a huge explosion, which the Jerusalem municipality, and you particularly, would be held accountable for." He added.

Dr. Meir Margalit of the Israel Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD) said the plan’s real intention was not to save Jerusalem’s "primordial landscape," but to wipe out the Palestinian presence from East Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, some 300 Palestinians came to the tent set up in Silwan to protest the demolition plan.

Israel to raze homes of 1,000 residents in East Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Municipality has begun proceedings to raze 88 buildings housing some 1,000 residents in the Silwan neighborhood, a municipality source reported on Monday.

The demolition will be among the largest to take place in East Jerusalem since 1967, and includes the destruction of few homes built prior to 1967 war.

Silwan residents say that the neighborhood’s earliest houses date from the 1940s and ’50s, and most houses were built in the late 1980s and early ’90s on private land belonging to Silwan villagers.

Yet, Jerusalem municipality claims that nearly all of the 88 houses were built illegally, except for "four to five single homes on the compound’s outskirts."

The demolition aims at "restoring the area to its landscape of yore," explained city engineer, Uri Shetrit, adding that he instructed city officials to deal "most forcefully" with the code violations.

The houses are within a neighborhood the Palestinians call "al-Bustan" and the municipality calls "King’s Valley."

Shetrit says that in 1977 the area was designated as a "green space," making any construction illegal.

The city engineer says he doesn’t want to demolish homes built before 1967, but intends to circumvent the statute of limitations that makes it impossible to raze houses built more than seven years ago, even if built without permits.

"The building offense runs out, but there’s no statute of limitations on using the illegal house, so we can bar residents from entering their homes, even if we can’t destroy them," Shetrit said.