A resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan was stabbed to death Thursday evening, with local residents reportedly saying that he was killed in a dispute over selling property to Israeli Jews.
The unnamed man, said to be about 50 years old, was taken to Jerusalem’s al-Maqased Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
According to Silwan residents who spoke to Haaretz, the slain man and his killer were both members of one of the families into whose building seven Israelis recently moved. The argument that prompted the alleged murder had to do with an adjacent apartment block, where units were also sold to Israeli Jews, the report said.
Jerusalem police said the killing was related to a family feud, and on Friday were reportedly poised to arrest a suspect in the killing.
The Elad Foundation, which was one of the groups to facilitate the purchase of the houses, dismissed the notion that the feud had anything to do with the property sale.
“There is absolutely no connection between the parties involved in the killing in Silwan overnight Thursday and any real estate transactions between Jews and Arabs in the vicinity,” Ze’ev Orenstein, Elad’s director of international affairs, told The Times of Israel in an email. “The events took place in the context of a local clan dispute.”
At the end of last month, a group of Jews moved into the newly purchased buildings in Silwan, prompting an angry protest by local residents in which a Border Policeman was lightly injured.
The move-in was timed for the dead of night to mitigate security concerns, and possibly also to embarrass Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in the US to attend the UN General Assembly and to meet with US President Barack Obama and other officials.
The structures in the neighborhood, which abuts the Old City, were purchased over the last several years by an American-based company, Kendall Finances, one of several groups seeking to expand the Jewish presence in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
Despite their attempt at stealth, members of the Jewish group were confronted by a large crowd of Arab residents, who harassed them with shouts, rocks and fireworks until they were dispersed by riot police. The injured officer, who was hit by a rock, was treated at the scene.
Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat blasted the new arrivals in a statement, saying: “This morning, illegal Israeli settlers protected by occupation forces entered seven buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan.”
He claimed that “a total of seven Palestinian families were left homeless” as a result.
Erekat accused the Israeli government of being run “by the settlers and for settlers. It serves the objective of altering the character of Jerusalem through isolating, containing and confining Palestinian existence, allowing for more Israeli land grabs and attempts at changing the identity and demography of Palestine and particularly of occupied East Jerusalem.”
The move was organized in part by Elad, an NGO that oversees the Ir David archaeological park, also in Silwan, and is dedicated to facilitating Jewish settlement in Arab East Jerusalem. In recent years several new Jewish neighborhoods or complexes have sprung up in heavily populated areas of East Jerusalem, often accompanied by protests or legal challenges. Ir David itself houses about 50 families in a small community.
Silwan residents said that they questioned the sale of the buildings, which comprise some 25 apartments in total, to Jews, and noted that the buildings belonged to three established families in the neighborhood. However, Avi Segal, a lawyer for Kendall Finances, said that the company “chose to invest in Jerusalem houses, and they were purchased legally.”
The mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, said he was unfamiliar with the details but called the entry of Jewish residents into Silwan a “criminal act” that furthered the “Judaization” of Jerusalem. He called on the Israeli government to stop the settlers and arrest them.
The Ir David area, also known as the City of David, is believed by some archaeologists to be the site of the original palace of King David, the biblical ruler of Israel and conqueror of Jerusalem.
The new Jewish residents of Silwan are part of a larger trend of returning the area to its “historical owners, the Jewish people,” MK Moti Yogev of the right-wing Jewish Home party said, and added that Jewish residency in East Jerusalem helped to ensure that a “united Jerusalem” remained as Israel’s capital.