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Israeli Supreme Court temporarily halts home demolitions in al-Walaja

Aug. 2, 2017 7:09 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 3, 2017 12:44 P.M.)
A home demolition carried out in al-Walaja in May. (File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli Supreme Court ruled to temporarily halt the demolition of seven homes in the village of al-Walaja in the Bethlehem district of the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Wednesday that Hassan Burajiya, a Palestinian who monitors illegal Israeli settlement building in Bethlehem, said that a Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) attorney had filed a petition to the Supreme Court to challenge the pending demolitions.

The Supreme Court ruled to halt the demolition of seven homes in the village, protecting the homes temporarily. However, 21 other al-Walaja homes are slated for demolition by Israeli authorities.

Burajiya told Wafa that the Supreme Court would issue a final ruling at a later date.

According to Wafa, the 28 homes have received demolition orders from Israeli authorities under the pretext of building without Israeli-issued construction permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities delivered 13 demolition notices for buildings in the Ein al-Jweizeh area of al-Walaja, locals told Ma’an on Wednesday.

Residents said that nine of the notices had only given a few days to appeal in front of Israeli courts.

The village of al-Walaja has long been the target of Israeli land confiscations and mass Israeli demolitions for the purpose of expanding Israel’s illegal settlements and advancing the construction of Israel’s separation wall -- deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.

At the end of April, Israel resumed construction of the separation wall in the village after a three-year hiatus.

Residents of al-Walaja lost over three-quarters of their lands since the state of Israel was established in 1948, when most of the village’s residents became refugees.

During Israel’s military takeover of East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967, 50 percent of al-Walaja’s lands were annexed to the Jerusalem municipality.

Meanwhile, 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.

In December, reports emerged that Israeli authorities were planning on moving a military checkpoint in the area, blocking off Palestinian access to a natural spring in al-Walaja known as Ain al-Haniyeh, and isolating several hundred acres of privately owned Palestinian land in the outskirts of the village.

Village council head Abd al-Rahman Abu al-Tin warned in 2016 that “if and when the wall is completed, it will turn the village into a prison.”

Meanwhile, at least 279 Palestinian structures have been demolished by Israel since the start of the year, displacing some 435 Palestinians, according to UN documentation. During 2016, at least 1,601 Palestinians were displaced due to Israeli demolitions.
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