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Municipality of Jerusalem to ‘blow up’ houses

Tsipi Malkuv | Yediot Yerushaliyim

6 April 2009

English Translation: Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions

THERE WILL BE AS BLAST [or a political blow-up; its a play on words in Hebrew]  by Tsipi Malkuv

[Subtitle] The policy of demolishing homes [in Jerusalem] will continue at an increased rate

The Jerusalem municipality continues to demonstrate determination in carrying out its policy of demolishing homes, despite the strong international opposition. This week it decided to bring a new instrument into play: the blowing up of homes instead of their demolition by bulldozers.

Two weeks ago it was made public that the municipality intends to spend 1.2 million shekels on aerial photographing to track building offenders, in the eastern part of the city in particular. Mayor Nir Barakat declared “an uncompromising war against the phenomenon,” as he defined it.

It seems that also the diplomatic storm aroused by Barakat’s remarks against the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is opposed to the demolition of homes in Silwan, does not bother him. The Americans are very disturbed and have filed a sharp protest to the Prime Minister’s Office against Barakat, but Barakat termed Clinton’s remarks “air without substance.” In the meantime the municipality continues in its policy which had led until now to the demolition of 30 houses [this year], 17 of them in East Jerusalem. [The reporter is confusing “houses” with “structures;” hence the 13 in West Jerusalem.]

This week the municipality bolstered its attempts to impress on everyone its determination. On Monday, the members of the Municipal Tender Committee were asked to approve the hiring of a company specializing in demolishing buildings by means of controlled explosions. In his explanatory comments to the committee members, Ofer Mai, the head of the Building Inspectors’ Department, wrote: “In unusual circumstances there is no practical possibility to demolish complex buildings with existing equipment because of technical limitations or a lack of time, and thus the need to to conduct a controlled demolition by means of explosives. Because it is important to carry out demolition orders, and the speed of demolition is a calculation, we are interested that we have the possibility of also employing demolitions by controlled explosions.”

The municipality: “The Building Inspectors’ Departrment intends to be aided by the services of the company in cases where there is a technical difficulty in carrying out the demolition by mechanical means and the use of explosives is the only possibility. The Department has used this technology in the past with great success, without damaging adjoining buildings.”