Mustafa Abu Sneineh
Middle East Eye / June 29, 2021
Israeli forces injured several residents as 40 police vehicles and a bulldozer stormed the area to destroy the property.
Israeli forces demolished a butcher’s shop and assaulted Palestinian residents during the storming of the al-Bustan neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday morning.
Al-Bustan is one of the Palestinian neighbourhoods lying south of the Old City of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, whose houses face imminent Israeli demolition to make way for settler projects.
Nidal al-Rajabi, the owner of the destroyed butcher’s shop, told Middle East Eye that Israeli forces had beaten residents with batons, arresting his son and brothers, among several others.
Israeli authorities had asked Rajabi to demolish the shop himself if he did not want to pay for the cost of police vehicles and a bulldozer that would carry out the demolition, which could run to $100,000.
Rajabi said he did not regret refusing to do so and had salvaged whatever he could of his merchandise, including meat and eggs, along with equipment, before the Israeli bulldozer razed his shop.
“On the contrary, I’m happy that I did not do it. I asked my children to come and see how the [Israeli] occupation [forces] demolish [our property] so they know that it was not me who demolished it, but the criminal occupation who did it,” he said.
Israel has a grand plan for the area south of al-Aqsa Mosque and the Old City, intending to build a string of tourist parks, themed around biblical stories and figures, in the neighbourhoods of al-Bustan, Silwan, Wadi al-Rababa, Batn al-Hawa and Wadi Hilweh.
Twenty Palestinian families living in 17 houses in Al-Bustan face imminent Israeli demolition orders.
On Tuesday morning, 40 Israeli police vehicles and a bulldozer surrounded and closed the entrances to Al-Bustan to demolish the Palestinian shop, which was built without a permit.
Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at the residents, while other clashes erupted in the Batn al-Hawa and Bir Ayoub neighbourhoods, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 13 injuries among the Palestinians, including six from rubber-coated bullets and five from gas canisters. One person was bruised, while another received burns from the hot casing of a canister.
‘A route for Jews only’
Ahmed al-Ruwaidi, a resident of Al-Bustan since 2004, told MEE that Israel was planning to build a park in the neighbourhood and name it after the biblical figure David.
“This is a settlement goal, and the occupation wants a route for Jews only,” he said.
“Three million Jews are planning to visit this area, starting from the Church of All Nations to Silwan spring, then to Al-Bustan and Waldi al-Rababa to the Jaffa Gate.”
Ruwaidi said that Israel planned to raze Palestinian houses in the area, which it sees as an obstacle to its grand biblical parks and an obstruction to the tourist route.
Although Al-Bustan residents objected to the Israeli plans, Ruwaidi said they had faced new house demolition orders which they cannot appeal against.
Israeli authorities had asked other Palestinian residents of Al-Bustan to demolish their own homes, a deadline for which passed on Sunday, which they had also refused to do.
The area, which was illegally occupied by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war, covers an area of 70,000 square metres, where 1,550 people live.
Mustafa Abu Sneineh – journalist, poet and staff writer at Middle East Eye
Additional reporting by Sondos Ewies in occupied East Jerusalem