Hidden Motives: How Israel Causes Palestinian Houses in Jerusalem to Collapse

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For years, Israeli excavations have been ongoing, causing damages and collapses to Palestinian homes and infrastructure. (Photo: Wadi Hilweh Information Center, Supplied)

By Fayha Shalash

Kayed Alrajabi didn’t expect that winter would bring destruction to his small home in Jerusalem. Heavy rains led to the collapse of a part of the house’s roof and the injury of one of his children.

In his house, in the Batn Alhawa neighborhood, Alrajabi, a few days ago, was surprised by the collapse of a part of the roof during heavy rains, which caused his child to injure his leg. Eight people live in the house, including his elderly mother.

“We were at home hearing the sound of thunder and trying to warm up the place as much as possible when we were surprised by the collapse. It was scary and we all ran outside,” Alrajabi told The Palestine Chronicle.

However, the rainy weather is not the only reason behind this, as there are other reasons that lead to the collapse of Palestinian homes in the city of Jerusalem, especially in the town of Silwan.

Digging Tunnels

Palestinians accuse Israeli authorities of playing a major role in that. For years, Israeli excavations have been ongoing underneath Palestinian homes in the town. Some of these excavations are publicly declared; others are hidden.

According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, Israel has started digging tunnels under Jerusalem’s neighborhoods in order to search for antiquities, but the undeclared goal is to establish a network of tunnels that reach the bottom of Al-Aqsa Mosque and shake its foundations.

Excavation work continues in a network of ramified tunnels under the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood all the way to Al-Buraq Square, the western wall of the Mosque.

The Center added that the digging and slitting of tunnels have been going on under the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood for 13 years, and this led to widespread landslides, cracks and fissures in several areas of the neighborhood, especially in the “main street, Mosque and kindergarten”. Additionally, more than 80 houses were partially damaged, while 5 buildings were classified as “dangerous” by the Israeli occupation municipality after their foundations were damaged.

Recently, the backyard of one of the houses in the Ras Alamud neighborhood collapsed, posing a great danger to its residents. This event revealed the existence of a large hollow space under the house, suggesting that Israeli machinery has been excavating in that area.

Willful Negligence

In the Abu Tayeh neighborhood, similar collapses occurred under the houses, and the residents miraculously survived, but this time the reasons were different.

Ahmad Abu Tayeh, one of the residents in the neighborhood, said that the cause of the collapse is the negligence of the Israeli occupation municipality in Jerusalem, as it prevented the construction of a retaining wall to protect the houses. It also prevents any repairs to the structures under various pretexts.

“The Israeli municipality does not allow us to make any repairs inside our homes. For example, if a wall needs support, we are not allowed to build it even if it is dangerous for our lives,” Abu Tayeh added.

In contrast, the Israeli occupation municipality quickly grants the necessary permits to the illegal Jewish settlement outposts inside the town, and allows for any construction works that may be needed, Abu Tayeh told us.

In fact, the excavation and construction work carried out by the settlers leads to great damage to the old Palestinian homes. Moreover, after refusing to allow them the necessary permits, the Israeli authorities often ask the Palestinian residents to evacuate their homes under the pretext that these homes have become dangerous for habitation.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center explains that there are various dangers resulting from this. When the residents are forced to leave their homes, the buildings eventually fall under the control of the Israeli occupation municipality, which over time passes the ownership to the illegal settlers.

Meanwhile, the excavation work below the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood never stops as demonstrated by specialized trucks that transport the dust emptied from the bottom of the ground. “When Palestinians ask, through a lawyer, to enter the tunnels and monitor the works, the (Israeli) occupation authorities prevent them from doing so,” the Center said.

Jewish settlement groups claim that these tunnels are part of the search for Jewish antiquities in the region. These efforts are concentrated in the town of Silwan, which the settlers call the City of David.

Although, until now, no Jewish antiquities have been found to support these claims, the digging continues, causing the collapse of Palestinian homes and a constant threat to the lives of the residents.

(Photos: Wadi Hilweh Information Center, Supplied)

– Fayha’ Shalash is a Ramallah-based Palestinian journalist. She graduated from Birzeit University in 2008 and she has been working as a reporter and broadcaster ever since. Her articles appeared in several online publications. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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