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Border Police plans to destroy Arab neighborhood in J´lem (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Jonathan Lis 01/30/05)Source: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/533475.html HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The Border Police is planning to demolish an Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem to protect the separation fence built in the area.

Commander Amitai Levy, the Border Police commander of the area enveloping Jerusalem, has announced that dozens of buildings of the Al-Muntar neighborhood in Jerusalem´s Tzur Baher village must be torn down.

This follows from his decision to create a 500-meter-wide security strip on each side of the barrier along its entire length, he said.

The residents of Al-Muntar said this week that at least 74 houses come within 500 meters of the barrier. In the rest of the country, the security buffer along the fence is only 50 to 80 meters wide.

Levy´s statement contradicts the instructions of Dan Tirza, a retired colonel in charge of the security fence administration for the IDF. Tirza permitted two architect firms hired by the residents to plan the buildings only dozens of meters away from the fence.

Recently he ratified his decision and said it was reached in coordination with the IDF command of the area surrounding Jerusalem.

Levy said the illegal buildings will be demolished and "if the whole neighborhood is illegal, it must be destroyed." He also said Tirza is not authorized to make any security decisions in the fence region. "He is not a security authority in this region and cannot legalize illegal buildings," he said.

The houses in Al-Muntar were built without a building permit, in the absence of a master plan in the area. However, their owners have been acting for years together with the Interior Ministry and Jerusalem municipality to issue legal permits for the houses that were built.

Attorney Giat Nasser, who represents 27 Al-Muntar residents, said the plans for the houses were made following the residents´ petition to the High Court of Justice and on the instructions of the Jerusalem municipality.

The architects are working on a master plan for the village, which, once approved, will render the houses legal. However, red tape is holding up the plan´s approval, and meanwhile the residents keep receiving demolition orders to their homes.

Although their homes are in the process of being approved, they are forced to pay heavy fines and make efforts to persuade the courts to withhold the demolitions.

The residents started building their houses in Al-Muntar in 1992 in the village´s east wing, after three Jewish settlements (the neighborhoods Har Homa, East Talpiot and Kibbutz Ramat Rahel) were built around Tzur Baher since 1967. The residents of Tzur Baher, which is mostly inside Jerusalem´s municipal area, said the building in Al-Muntar results from the village´s natural growth in the only unbuilt area left.

The residents were angry this week at Levy´s statement. "The commander is not supposed to promote the demolition of illegal structures. Since when do the police or Border Police interfere with the affairs of the Jerusalem municipality or the Interior Ministry?" they asked.

The Jerusalem municipality denied the city is dragging its feet approving the plans and said it is debating two of the plans submitted by the residents. The Interior Ministry said, "The Jerusalem district Planning Bureau in the ministry is handling the residents´ calls to replan Tzur Baher´s margins." (© Copyright 2005 Haaretz. 01/30/05)

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