Israeli plans to demolish illegal Palestinian homes near a military barrier on the outskirts of Yerushalayim, following a High Court ruling, have drawn international criticism.
The deadline for residents of the eastern Yerushalayim neighborhood of Sur Baher to remove the buildings expired on Friday after the Court ruled in June that the structures in question violated a construction ban.
Sur Baher is a Palestinian village that straddles the line between eastern Yerushalayim and Yehudah and Shomron, but on the Israeli side of the security barrier. Israel says it built the barrier to stop Palestinian terrorist attacks; Palestinians claim it’s a land grab designed to annex parts of the region they want for a future state.
The justices upheld the Defense Ministry’s argument that major construction along the barrier would “limit [military] operational freedom near the barrier and increase tensions with the local population.
“Such construction may also shelter terrorists or illegal residents among the civilian population, and allow terrorist operatives to smuggle weapons or sneak inside Israeli territory,” justices Menny Mazuz, Uzi Fogelman and Yitzhak Amit wrote, according to Haaretz. “We therefore accept that there is a military-security need to restrict construction near the barrier.”
The court did, however, scale back the demolition, reducing the number of buildings slated to be razed from 25 to 16.
Last month, Israeli authorities sent a “Notice of Intent to Demolish” to lawyers of the Sur Baher residents affected, informing them of the Court ruling.
The notice said the local military commander would carry out the demolition – and charge them for the cost – if the buildings were not torn down by July 18.
Palestinian officials said this week that the threatened structures lie within areas that they should control.
On Wednesday, Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, and other U.N. officials called on the Israeli authorities to halt plans for demolitions.
They said 17 Palestinians faced displacement from the plans to level 10 buildings, including dozens of apartments.
The European Union issued a statement saying: “The continuation of this policy undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace.”
But the High Court’s 3-judge panel ruled unanimously in favor of demolition: “The petitioners took the law into their own hands when they began and continued building structures without receiving a special permit from the military commander.”