Mustafa Abu Zahra, head of the committee for the preservation of Islamic cemeteries in Jerusalem al-Quds, said that bulldozers escorted by officers of Israel's Nature And Parks Authority (INPA) demolished the western section of the al-Shuhada, or ‘martyrs’, cemetery, which is an extension of the al-Yusifiya cemetery located at the Lion’s Gate entrance of the Old City.
According to Abu Zahra, after demolishing the outer cemetery wall, bulldozers continued to work in the area before a group of Jerusalemite Palestinians arrived and “coerced the bulldozers to stop leveling the land.”
Neither an Israeli police nor INPA spokesperson were immediately available for comment on the reports.
Abu Zahra said that the demolition, which Israeli officials had attempted to carry out last month, was part of an ongoing campaign by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) to level the lands of the cemetery in order to build a national park in the area.
Fatah official Hatem Abed al-Qader described Monday’s events as an “attack on the cemetery,” saying the demolition was "part of Israeli plans to turn Jerusalem into a Jewish city."
In addition to the al-Shuhada cemetery, which houses the graves of people killed by Israeli forces in the 1967 war -- after which Israel illegally occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds, the Bab al-Rahma cemetery has been subject to demolitions after Israeli authorities announced plans to seize parts of the cemetery for a national park trail in 2015.
While Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, according to Palestinians and the international community, the city has remained an intricate part of the occupied Palestinian territory and would be considered the capital of any future Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.