AMMAN: Palestinians in East Jerusalem were woken at 2 a.m. on Thursday as more than 100 Jewish settlers backed by security forces took over three buildings in the Silwan neighborhood adjacent to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The occupation of the Palestinian properties is believed to have been orchestrated by the Ateret Cohanim and Elad settler organizations.
Onlookers said that settlers brought prefabricated rooms, cameras, internet connection and powerful night lighting with them as they occupied the buildings in the middle of the mainly Arab neighborhood.
According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, which represents residents, two of the four-story buildings were sold to the Risheq family with a provision in the deed that they should not be resold to any Jewish group.
The third building belongs to Mustafa Abu Diab, whose whereabouts are unknown.
The Abu Diab and Risheq families issued statements disassociating themselves from the transfer of properties to the settlers, vowing not to “have any dealings with those responsible.”
Hejazi Risheq, head of the Jerusalem merchants committee, told Arab News that his extended family has 4,500 members.
“We have tracked down what happened, and it appears that a member of our family sold the home to his partner who is apparently responsible for its sale to the settler groups.”
Risheq said that “we have stated clearly that we will not communicate with this person.”
He added: “We reject the transfer of properties to these organizations. This is a violation of our religion, and our social and national behavior, and we consider it treason. We don’t accept any justification.”
Risheq said that Israeli forces’ efforts against Palestinian authorities “removed all deterrents for such acts of treason.”
If the Palestinian leadership had sovereignty, “no one would dare do such things for financial gain,” he said.
The center said that 12 enclaves — most of which were taken over by settlers in 2001 and 2015 — are now dotting Silwan.
Sari Nusseibeh, former president of Al-Quds University, told Arab News that those who “facilitated this anti-national action” will not benefit from the move.
Nusseibeh urged people to protect their properties from individuals “who are outside the Palestinian national consensus” and called on the international community to stop Israel from confiscating Palestinian land under occupation in East Jerusalem.
“I especially call on the new US administration to intervene quickly in order to protect the hope of a comprehensive peace,” he added.