Israel's Supreme Court yesterday gave the green light for the state to demolish 13 apartment blocks built in "Area A" of the occupied West Bank, but which now lie inside the route of the illegal Separation Wall.
According to Haaretz, Palestinians say that the ruling "sets a precedent that will enable the demolition of thousands of buildings in the West Bank".
The court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, backed the state's argument that the buildings do not have the required permits, and thus can be demolished. The buildings contain roughly 100 apartments, 20 of which are already inhabited and the rest are under construction.
The buildings are in Wadi Hummus which is located on the edge of Sur Baher, in southeast Jerusalem. As described by Haaretz, "unlike the rest of the village, this neighbourhood lies beyond the city's municipal boundaries, in the West Bank". Most is designated "Area A", under the administrative control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
In 2003, the Separation Wall was re-routed so that Wadi Hummus ended up on the so-called "Israeli" side, even though "legally it is considered to be part of the West Bank and under the PA's authority".
While "building permits for the construction were issued by the PA's planning ministry" seven years ago, the Israeli military "issued an injunction banning construction of buildings within 250 meters" of the Separation Wall.
When, two years ago, "the army issued demolition orders for 13 new buildings constructed in the area mentioned in the injunction", local residents appealed to the Supreme Court.
They argued that "the army does not have the authority to demolish buildings that received building permits from the PA, that the order was not publicised", and, that they had built their homes without knowing that the Israeli army "had prohibited it".
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Attorney Haitham Khatib, who is representing the residents. "The army has been given a green light and will start to act in all the different areas."
In their ruling accepting the government's position, the Supreme Court justices wrote: "Continued construction without a permit in close proximity to the security barrier limits the operational freedom of movement near the fence and increases friction with the local population."
"Such construction may also serve as a hiding place for terrorists or persons residing illegally within a non-involved civilian population, and enable terrorists to smuggle weapons or even enter into Israel from that area," the decision added.