The City of Jerusalem, in conjunction with Israeli security forces, is planning a massive demolition operation against an illegal neighborhood on the northern edge of the city.
According to a report by Kan 11 Sunday night, the Jerusalem municipality is taking aim at six illegally-built high-rise apartment buildings in the village of Kafr Aqab, which sits inside the municipal boundaries of the capital.
Kafr Aqab, while under full Israeli sovereignty and nominally under the authority of the City of Jerusalem, is outside of the security fence around the city and remains largely beyond the reach of Israeli law enforcement officials. Building violations are common in Kafr Aqab, and city officials say the six-building neighborhood targeted for demolition was built with no authorization whatsoever.
The six apartment buildings slated for demolition are all six stories or taller, and include a mosque built housed in a unit of one of the buildings.
The demolition will be carried out in a joint operation between city officials, Israel Police, the IDF, and the Shin Bet internal security agency. The buildings are slated to be levelled in a series of controlled explosions so powerful, hundreds of residents of other buildings in the area will have be evacuated as a security precaution.
Sources told Kan 11 that the plan has been promoted by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
A spokesperson from the mayor’s office noted that “The demolition orders were issued months ago against [the buildings] which had been built illegally and without building permits and which had no residents [when the orders were issued] and which today are still largely empty. Time and again, the courts, including the Jerusalem District Court and the Israeli Supreme Court, issued [demolition] orders.”
According to the mayor’s office, the demolitions will pave the way for a new highway which will benefit reisdents of Kafr Aqab.
“Demolition of the illegal buildings will enable the City of Jerusalem to pave a highway, improving the lives of tens of thousands of residents. The new road is absolutely necessary, and it will benefit all of the residents of Kafr Aqab.”
At least one coalition member, however, condemned the plan, calling it a political ploy to gain support from the right.
“Nir Barkat has been mayor for nine years, and nothing like this was ever done,” said Rachel Azariya (Kulanu), a former Jerusalem city council member from the Yerushalmim (“Jerusalemites”) faction.
“He knows that he is playing with fire by pursuing this. No one argues with the fact that illegal construction in Jerusalem is a problem that must be dealt with, especially in eastern Jerusalem. But a show of force like this will lead to a dangerous confrontation.”
Home demolitions of illegal Arab structures in Jerusalem were few and far between during the President Obama’s eight years in office, owing in part to the administration’s opposition to such demolitions.
Following President Trump’s election last November, however, the left-wing Ir Amim organization measured a significant increase in the number of illegal Arab buildings demolished.