Palestinians fear expulsion for Jerusalem high-tech hub

Palestinians fear expulsion for Jerusalem high-tech hub
A Palestinian man works at a shop in Wadi El-Joz, in occupied East Jerusalem. (AFP)
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Updated 09 June 2020

Palestinians fear expulsion for Jerusalem high-tech hub

Palestinians fear expulsion for Jerusalem high-tech hub
  • The $600 million project has allocated 250,000 square meters (2.7 billion square feet) of land for the technology park

JERUSALEM: Palestinian business owners in occupied East Jerusalem are worried they will be forced to shut up shop by Israeli authorities over plans to build a vast high-tech hub in their neighborhood.
The main thoroughfare through the Wadi El-Joz area, close to Jerusalem’s Old City, is lined by mechanic workshops and usually hums with the sound of car horns.
But business owners are facing an uncertain future, with fears that more than 200 premises could be forced to close including garages and popular restaurants.
Fathi Al-Kurd, whose workshop opened in 1966, is worried that he and his two sons will not be offered another location.
“My son has four children, if he doesn’t work for a week his children will starve,” the 77-year-old said.
“We can’t confront this government, but we ask that they at least provide us with an alternative,” he added.
His son Muhannad Al-Kurd, a car electrician, said a municipal official visited them last summer and warned “eviction is coming.”
East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.
The Jerusalem municipality aims to create a “new high-tech center” that would “reduce social gaps and economic inequality in East Jerusalem,” according to city hall.
The $600 million project has allocated 250,000 square meters (2.7 billion square feet) of land for the technology park. A further 50,000 square meters has been earmarked for other businesses, and the same amount for hotels.
Several Palestinian families own land in the industrial zone of East Jerusalem, including Naif Al-Kiswani who says they will inevitably be drawn into the Israeli project.
“I want to be compensated financially and given licenses to build shops, businesses and flats,” he said, sitting inside his hardware store.
Al-Kiswani confirmed that talks about the redevelopment were underway with Israeli officials, with a meeting planned soon between Palestinian landowners and Jerusalem’s deputy mayor.
“The project exists and our refusal won’t change anything, but we must not lose everything,” he said.
Concerns over the redevelopment come as businesses are gradually reopening, after measures to tackle the novel coronavirus brought the city to a standstill.
Muhannad Al-Kurd said his income fell by 70 percent in recent months and the new project could bring further financial losses.
“This eviction will make us start from scratch,” he said.
Wearing a face mask at the garage where he works, Khalil Al-Hawash said the project aims to “empty the city of Palestinians.”
Standing in front of a sign for the garage in both Arabic and Hebrew, he wanted to know whether there would be compensation or help to relocate elsewhere.
Economist Mohammed Qirsh says if the business owners are expelled without financial redress the impact would be “devastating.”
Some of those affected by the redevelopment plans aim to form a committee to challenge the decision.
The president of the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce in Jerusalem, Kamal Obidat, described it as a plan to “liquidate” parts of the city and “Judaize” them.


Tunisia arrests over 600, deploys troops after riots

Tunisia arrests over 600, deploys troops after riots
Updated 1 min 32 sec ago

Tunisia arrests over 600, deploys troops after riots

Tunisia arrests over 600, deploys troops after riots

TUNIS: More than 600 people have been arrested and troops have been deployed after a third consecutive night of riots in several Tunisian cities, officials said Monday.
The unrest came after Tunisia imposed a nationwide lockdown to stem a rise in coronavirus infections on Thursday — the same day as it marked the 10th anniversary of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s fall from power.
Interior ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni said a total of 632 people were arrested, notably “groups of people between the ages of 15, 20 and 25 who burned tires and bins in order to block movements by the security forces.”
Defense ministry spokesman Mohamed Zikri meanwhile said the army has deployed reinforcements in several areas of the country.
Hayouni said that some of those arrested lobbed stones at police and clashed with security forces.
“This has nothing to do with protest movements that are guaranteed by the law and the constitution,” said Hayouni.
“Protests take place in broad daylight normally... without any criminal acts involved,” he added.
Hayouni said two policemen were wounded in the unrest.
It was not immediately clear if there were injuries among the youths and Hayouni did not say what charges those arrested faced.
The clashes took place in several cities across Tunisia, mostly in working-class neighborhoods, with the exact reasons for the disturbances not immediately known.
But it came as many Tunisians are increasingly angered by poor public services and a political class that has repeatedly proved unable to govern coherently a decade on from the 2011 revolution.
GDP shrank by nine percent last year, consumer prices have spiralled and one third of young people are unemployed.
The key tourism sector, already on its knees after a string of deadly jihadist attacks in 2015, has been dealt a devastating blow by the pandemic.
Tunisia has registered more than 177,000 coronavirus infections, including over 5,600 deaths since the pandemic erupted last year.
The four-day lockdown ended on Sunday night, but it was not immediately know if other restrictions would be imposed.


The army has deployed troops in Bizerte in the north, Sousse in the east and Kasserine and Siliana in central Tunisia, the defense ministry spokesman said.
Sousse, a coastal resort overlooking the Mediterranean, is a magnet for foreign holidaymaking that has been hit hard by the pandemic.
The health crisis and ensuing economic misery have pushed growing numbers of Tunisians to seek to leave the country.
On Sunday evening in Ettadhamen, a restive working-class neighborhood on the edge of the Tunisian capital, the mood was sombre.
“I don’t see any future here,” said Abdelmoneim, a waiter, as the unrest unfolded around him.
He blamed the violence on the country’s post-revolution political class and said the rioting youths were “bored adolescents” who reflected the “failure” of politicians.
Abdelmoneim said he was determined to take a boat across the Mediterranean to Europe “as soon as possible, and never come back to this miserable place.”
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