Silwan-based watchdog the Wadi Hilweh Information Center reported that settlers stormed the courtyard of Muhammad Muheisin’s home, smashed the outdoor furniture, damaged garden plants, and shattered framed Quran verses. The settlers left about a half an hour later.
Muheisin and his family live on the ground floor of a six-storey building. According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, Israeli settlers took over the five upper apartments in October 2014, and Muheisin was the only Palestinian who remained in the building.
Since the takeover, settlers have been trying to buy Muheisin’s apartment, sometimes “by force,” and sometimes by offering him as much money as he wants, according to the center.
The group highlighted that settlers have repeatedly assaulted him and his family members over the years, and regularly throw garbage at their home and disconnect their power grid and water supply.
Muheisin told Wadi Hilweh that the roof and walls of his home have been damaged by water leakages coming from the above apartments, but the settlers have refused to address the issue.
There are an upwards of 300,000 Israeli settlers residing in East Jerusalem in contravention of international law, with at least 500 living in Silwan among a population of 45,000 Palestinians.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented 107 cases of settler attacks on Palestinians and their property throughout 2016.
Silwan in particular has been the target of intense settlement activity and initiatives, which include a plan for a tourist complex in the al-Bustan neighborhood, which, if implemented, would displace more than 1,000 Palestinian residents; hundreds of additional residents are at-risk of displacement due to eviction cases initiated by settler organizations in the same area, according to the OCHA.
Last week, the Israeli settlement group Elad reportedly took over a Palestinian-owned property in Silwan while its owners were away in Jordan.
Relatives of the Palestinian family said that Elad had claimed ownership of the building several years ago after using a Palestinian as a proxy to buy the house and then transfer it to the settlement group — a common practice by settler groups wishing to expand their presence in Palestinian-majority areas of East Jerusalem.
Elad took over another building in Silwan last month, which it said it had purchased using a similar Palestinian “straw man” mechanism.
When asked about the involvement of Israeli police in that case, Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld questioned the validity of the reports, telling Ma’an at the time that Wadi Hilweh Information Center’s claims that Palestinian property had been taken over by settlers were “not serious” and “irrelevant.”
Jerusalem’s Israeli city planning commission also approved a plan to build a three-story building for Jewish settlers in the heart of Silwan in December, introduced by Israeli pro-settlement nonprofit organization Ateret Cohanim — the same day the Jerusalem municipality demolished Palestinian-owned structures in the neighborhood.
The Elad and Ateret Cohanim groups are a strong force in the Israeli settler movement in East Jerusalem, with Elad leading a takeover of 25 buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan in 2015, which constituted the largest incursion of Israeli settlers into a Palestinian neighborhood in the past 20 years, according to the the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ).
Also known as the Ir David Foundation, Elad aims to “rediscover and preserve the Biblical city of David,” in an effort to connect Jews to their Biblical roots through tourism, archaeological excavation, and “Judaizing Jerusalem” by buying out homes in Palestinian majority neighborhoods.