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

  • 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.


Full steam ahead for Egypt-Sudan rail network

Updated 57 min 8 sec ago

Full steam ahead for Egypt-Sudan rail network

  • Gateway project will open continent to new trade and jobs, says Cairo minister

CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Transport Kamel Al-Wazir has discussed plans with Sudanese counterpart Hashem bin Auf to build a cross-border railway network between the two neighboring countries.

The pair discussed terms of a joint cooperation document for railway connectivity, which aims to provide funding for an economic, social and environmental feasibility study for the project. The planned network will extend from the Egyptian city of Aswan across the southern border to Sudan’s Wadi Halfa in its first phase.

Funding will be organized through cooperation between Egypt, Sudan and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.

Al-Wazir signed the document and delivered it to the Sudanese ambassador in Cairo for signing by the country’s transport minister.

The two sides also discussed a number of road projects, including a prospective land road between Egypt and Chad through Sudan. 

The project aims to be a gateway for trade between the two countries, Chad and West Africa. 

The Cairo-Sudan-Cape Town road, which passes through nine African countries, was also mentioned by the ministers. Al-Wazir also said that Egypt is building a Cairo-Arqin road corridor inside its borders, which passes through the governorates of Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, Sohag, Qena, Luxor and Aswan, and then then extends to the Egyptian border, passing through the Toshka junctions to Arqin, parallel with Sudan.

He added that the new project is important in achieving land connectivity and increasing trade with African countries, as well as serving Egyptian and African citizens, opening new job opportunities and encouraging comprehensive development. The Sudanese side also requested cooperation with Egypt in maritime transport and the training of maritime cadres at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport.

Al-Wazir said that Egypt will provide its capabilities to train the workers, whether through the Arab Academy, Egyptian ports or the Egyptian Authority for Maritime Safety.

The two sides also agreed to hold a joint meeting to follow up on the progress of other cooperation projects and to discuss the development of the Nile Valley Authority for River Navigation.

Al-Wazir’s team said that the coming period should include urgent plans to develop the authority, train river workers and provide support through specialized technical cadres.