Wadi Yusal, located on the south-eastern edge of Silwan and adjacent to the southern part of the Peace Forest (Ya'ar HaShalom), is currently under threat of wide-scale demolitions with nearly 500 residents at risk of being affected. Demolitions began in the area less than three weeks ago after the Israeli Supreme Court rejected on April 14 the request to appeal a decision made by the Jerusalem District Court on three demolition cases, putting the demolition orders into immediate effect. An additional 54 cases involving demolition orders are pending at the Israeli courts: 47 before the District Court, while seven others remain in the Magistrate Court.
Due to numerous obstacles Palestinians face in obtaining building permits in East Jerusalem, many of the residents in Wadi Yasul were driven to build without permits, placing their homes under threat of demolition. While in the past Wadi Yasul residents submitted a master plan to the Jerusalem Municipality, which would enable them to retroactively legalize their homes, the Israeli planning authorities refused to approve the plan, asserting the land is designated as forestland or greenspace according to the masterplan Israel drew up for the area. Allocating large swaths of greenspace is a recurring mechanism employed by Israeli authorities to block the planning and development of Palestinian residential areas in East Jerusalem.
As previously reported by Ir Amim, the ELAD settler organization has been advancing touristic projects in this very vicinity with the complicity of the State, erecting illegal structures for camp sites and other activities inside the northern part of the Peace Forest. On March 25, the District Planning and Building Committee discussed a request submitted by the Jerusalem Municipality and Jewish National Fund to amend the area's designation in order to effectively legalize ELAD's touristic projects and enable their activities to continue unabated. It should be noted that while the structures unlawfully constructed by ELAD are relatively new, the Palestinian homes demolished yesterday were built some 30 years ago, further underscoring the political motivations behind the demolitions.
Yesterday's demolitions in Wadi Yasul are part and parcel of a series of mounting pressures that the Israeli government and settler organizations are exerting on the area of Silwan. The extensive demolition orders, eviction demands filed against Palestinian families and state-sponsored settlement projects under the guise of touristic enterprises all serve to rapidly tighten Israeli control of Silwan and the rest of the Old City Basin as demonstrated by Ir Amim's latest map and accompanying alert, "Settlement Ring around the Old City."
Since the start of 2019, there have been 93 demolitions across East Jerusalem, 41 of which were residential units, revealing a demonstrable rise in demolitions when compared to the same period in 2018. 55 demolitions were carried out in the month of April alone. In the case of Wadi Yasul, the District Court's dismissal of the three demolition appeals and subsequent swift execution of demolitions point to the likelihood that the remaining appeals will likewise be rejected, placing many homes in the neighbourhood at risk of demolition.