Tensions run high in Silwan neighborhood

Dec. 26, 2010 at 8:54 AM
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JERUSALEM, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Israel's border police were deployed in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan to block the entrance ahead of planned home evictions, police said.

The beefed up presence of security forces in the predominantly Arab neighborhood Sunday came ahead of plans to evacuate and seal Beit Yonathan, an illegally constructed seven-story Jewish apartment block in the neighborhood, Haaretz said.

"The police will complete all of the necessary preparation and coordinates to carry out the ruling on the prescribed date," Police Chief David Cohen told the newspaper. "We must take the path of dialogue or legal means and try to prevent any brewing illegal demonstrations."

Israel's Supreme Court Sunday rejected an appeal to postpone the eviction and gave the state 24 hours to respond.

The court ruling followed Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's instructions to execute the court order immediately, the paper said.

Until now, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat had refrained from executing the order, the paper noted.

Barkat issued a statement Saturday conditioning the eviction of the Beit Yonathan building to evacuating the Abu Nab family, who live in a nearby building slated to be turned over to Jews, the paper said.

Such a move could spark severe violence in the already highly tense neighborhood.

The Abu Nab family's building once housed the Ohel Shlomo synagogue and served Yemenite Jews who lived in Silwan until the neighborhood came under Jordanian control in the 1948 War of Independence. For the past fifty years it has been home to the Abu Nab family who live in six apartments in the building, the paper said.

Individuals linked to the Ateret Cohanim organization that encourages a Jewish presence in east Jerusalem discovered the Abu Nab building was registered in the name of a Jewish charity organization prior to 1948.

Legal proceedings began in 2001 to return the property to the charity run by individuals affiliated with Ateret Cohanim, the paper said.

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