Israel freezes some Silwan demolition orders, but 16 homes destroyed

Israeli bulldozers backed by police forces tear down a Palestinian house in Silwan town in East Jerusalem (Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  August 12, 2021

Israel has frozen most of the demolition orders for Palestinian homes in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighbourhood. However, the same court which ordered the freeze, also allowed the demolition of 16 homes to go ahead, suggesting that this is merely a delay rather than a cancellation of the orders.

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Judge Sigal Albo, of Jerusalem’s Court for Local Affairs, said that he had reached the conclusion that “there is space to grant a specific extension.”

Despite that extension, the families see it as only a delay of the inevitable demolition rather than a victory. Those views were echoed by Ziad Kawar, the lawyer representing the residents of Silwan’s Al-Bustan area, who told AFP that the court’s decision was only “progress” but “not a victory.”

Protests erupted and were suppressed brutally in Jerusalem – and other occupied Palestinian territories and countries abroad – in May this year, when Israeli courts resumed orders to seize Palestinian homes in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah and then, in the following month, to demolish homes in Silwan. The court orders were postponed until this month.

The owners of the properties in the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods, particularly Silwan, which is home to between 30,000 and 50,000 Palestinians, are now attempting to keep their homes through legal avenues in the Israeli courts.

Kawar’s clients, for example, have been applying for retrospective building licences for their homes. They have pointed out that they built the homes on their own private land and property, contrary to the Israeli claim that they built the homes on public land.

The Israeli occupation authorities in the city reject almost all building permit applications by Palestinians. “It is not possible [for Palestinians] to get permits there,” confirmed Kawar.

Since the beginning of this year, at least 81 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been demolished on the orders of the Israeli occupation authorities. The owners have been forced to carry out the demolitions themselves or pay for the authorities to do the job.