Similar to Sheikh Jarrah.. this is how the occupation is trying to displace the families of the Ain Jweizeh neighborhood, west of Bethlehem

In 2022, the occupation is expected to carry out a massive demolition operation in the “Ain al-Juwaiza” neighborhood in the village of Al Walaja, to implement its plans to annex it to the city of Jerusalem, but not as a Palestinian extension, but as a settlement land or as a natural park for settlers, after emptying it of its people.

Video duration 03 minutes 17 seconds

Bethlehem- Palestinian lawyer Ibrahim al-Araj points with his hand to show us the completely or partially destroyed houses, or those threatened with demolition by the Israeli occupation, in the “Ain Jweizeh” neighborhood in the village of Walaja, west of Bethlehem, in the southern occupied West Bank.

The village of Al-Walajah is about 9 kilometers from the center of occupied Jerusalem from the southwest. Israel occupied its lands, which occupies an area of ​​about 17,000 dunams (a dunam, one thousand square metres), in two phases: the first during the Nakba in 1948, and the other in the June War of 1967.

Today, the people of Al-Walajah have only about 3,000 dunams left, after the annexation of its lands to the occupied city of Jerusalem, and the construction of a bypass road that passes through its lands to serve the settlers in 1993, in addition to establishing outposts and an apartheid wall surrounding them from all sides, isolating the citizens’ agricultural lands from them.

Pictures of the settlements established by the occupation on the lands of Al Walaja village, which it annexed to occupied West Jerusalem (Al Jazeera)

forced displacement

Ibrahim al-Araj, a member of the Committee of Homeowners Threatened in the village, says that the “Ain Gwiza” neighborhood in the village is being subjected to a forced displacement scheme targeting 350 citizens who live in about 50 homes, under the pretext that they were built without permits from the Israeli occupation.

Since 2016, the occupation has demolished more than 40 homes in the village. In February 2022, the Supreme Occupation Court is scheduled to consider demolition decisions for approximately 38 other homes. In a scene similar to the scheme to expel the families of Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem.

Al-Araj added to Al-Jazeera Net, that the occupation aims to displace the “Ain Guiza” neighborhood, and empty its lands of residents, in order to establish a geographical link between the settlements surrounding Jerusalem and the “Gush Etzion” settlement complex, which is located on Palestinian lands south of Bethlehem.

The village of Al Walaja was considered the food basket of the cities of Jerusalem and Jaffa in the north, because there were more than 22 natural water springs on its lands, and the train that was established during the time of the Ottoman Empire, and the link between Jerusalem and Jaffa, passed through it. The occupation seeks to call it a “national park for the Jews”, after the displacement of its Palestinian owners.

Pictures of the rubble of houses demolished by the Israeli occupation in the Ain Jweizah neighborhood in the village of Al Walaja, west of Bethlehem, under the pretext of not having a license (Al-Jazeera)

outdoor fridge

Al-Araj describes what is happening as a war crime, and a violation of international law and human rights principles, especially in the policy of home demolitions, which the occupation implements from time to time.

While we were wandering around the “Ain Gweizeh” neighborhood, we found the refrigerator of a citizen whose house was recently demolished by the occupation. It is still in the open, and the belongings and furniture of its residents are still among the rubble.

We passed a fence that one of the Palestinians built around his land and it was demolished, and we also saw a road that was swept away by the occupation, whose owner once paved it with asphalt and at other times with cement.

We went to the Al-Walaja village council, and met its head, Khader Al-Araj, who presented the files of the houses threatened with demolition by the occupation, the notifications the occupation sent to the villagers, and the list of the already demolished houses, in which they were given hours sometimes, to evacuate before they were destroyed.

The head of the council told Al Jazeera Net that all the lands of the village of Al Walaja are under threat, but the occupation is practicing a demolition campaign in the “Ain Jweizeh” neighborhood, as it does in occupied East Jerusalem.

According to the official, notifications sometimes come from the occupation municipality in Jerusalem, as Al-Walajah is part of the territory of what is called “Greater Jerusalem” by Israel.

An aerial photo of the settlements established by the occupation on the lands of the village of Al Walaja (Al Jazeera)

demolition massacre

These harassments have been experienced by the residents of Al-Walajah since the beginning of the nineties of the last century, according to Al-Araj. Since then, 97 structures have been demolished; Including homes and agricultural barracks, in addition to razing roads and preventing their use, in addition to losses of hundreds of thousands of shekels (a dollar = 3.10 shekels), which the occupation fined the residents for building pretexts without a permit.

Al-Araj says that in 2016, 38 cases were filed before the occupation courts, and they were grouped into a collective case in the name of the people and the village council, to force the occupation municipality in Jerusalem to draw up a master plan for the “Ain Gweizeh” area in particular, and Al-Walajah in general, in order to obtain licenses or Stop demolishing homes.

Last October, the Occupation Court decided to refuse to specify an outline for the village, and the case was filed until the end of December, which was again postponed until March 2022.

The head of the village council, Khader al-Araj, believes that all Palestinian attempts to stop the demolition of homes may fail. Because of the refusal of the occupation and its courts to find an outline plan for citizens to obtain building permits; This means that demolition orders will always be in effect.

At that time, according to al-Araj, there will be what he described as a massacre against their homes, all so that the occupation will implement its plans in Al-Walajah, and annex it to the city of Jerusalem, but not as a Palestinian extension, but as a settlement land or as a natural park for settlers, after emptying it of its people.

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