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Israel demolishes buildings in al-Walaja days before court hearing to appeal the decision

May 4, 2017 4:33 P.M. (Updated: May 4, 2017 10:13 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces demolished three buildings in the southern occupied West Bank village of al-Walaja on Thursday, local sources said, days before a court hearing in which the homeowners hoped to appeal the decision.

Village council head Khader al-Araj told official Palestinian news agency Wafa that Israeli forces had raided a district in northern al-Walaja and demolished a 200-square-meter two-story house belonging to Ibrahim Neiroukh.

Israeli forces also demolished two 150-square-meter houses which were under construction, al-Araj said, adding that the two buildings belonged to Hamed and Raed Abu Sneineh.

Al-Araj said that Israeli authorities had previously notified the three owners that their houses would be demolished for lacking hard-to-obtain Israeli construction permits, but had given them an opportunity to appeal the decision in front of an Israeli court on May 7.

However, the demolitions came three days before the hearing.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Finance, under whose jurisdiction the demolitions reportedly fell, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ninety-seven percent of the land in al-Walaja, whose population counted some 2,000 residents in 2007, is located in Area C -- the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control -- according to the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ).

Nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally, and placing them under the constant risk of demolition.

The estimated 550,000 Jewish Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory are however more easily given building permits and allowed to expand their homes and properties.

Meanwhile, Wafa reported on Sunday that Israeli authorities had resumed construction of the illegal separation wall -- also known as the annexation or apartheid wall -- near al-Walaja after a three-year hiatus.

Israel began building the wall with concrete slabs, fences, and barbed-wire inside the occupied West Bank in 2002 at the height of the Second Intifada, claiming that it was crucial for security.

Israel’s separation wall encircles al-Walaja, the hometown of slain Palestinian activist Basel al-Araj, and swathes of land have been reappropriated by the Israeli government for the construction and expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements of Gilo, Har Gilo, and Givat Yael. The Israeli government has also planned to confiscate hundreds of acres from al-Walaja for the establishment of a national park.

Critics have slammed the wall as a violation of international law, separating Palestinians from their lands, enabling the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, and encroaching far beyond the 1967 Green Line, which supporters of the two-state solution believe should mark the border between Israel and an independent Palestinian state, further fragmenting the occupied Palestinian territory.
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