Sur Baher, West Bank - The Israeli regime’s plans to demolish Palestinian homes near an occupation barrier on the outskirts of occupied Jerusalem have drawn international criticism, amid Palestinian fears that a precedent would be set for other buildings along the wall route.
The deadline for residents of Sur Baher to remove the buildings expired on Friday after the regime’s Supreme Court ruled in June that the structures in question violated a construction “ban”.
Sur Baher is a Palestinian community that lies southeast of occupied Jerusalem’s city centre in an area that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East War. A sprawling village, it straddles the line between East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Its political geography is further complicated because parts of Sur Baher lie inside the West Bank - but on the Israeli side of the wall. Palestinians call the wall a land grab designed to annex parts of the West Bank.
As the deadline’s expiry approached, Sur Baher residents expressed dismay, some saying that they would be left homeless.
“I don’t have any other place to live. I don’t have an alternative,” said Esmail Obeideh, a father of six. He said he had spent 1.2 million shekels (Dh1.2 million) building the family house that is now under threat.
Obeideh and other Sur Baher residents told Reuters they did not need Israel’s permission to build their homes because they had received it from the Palestinian National Authority, which since the Oslo interim peace deals of the 1990s exercises limited self-rule over parts of the West Bank.
“Everyone here is panicking - they put all of their savings into buying an apartment or building a house,” said Idris Abu Tair, 62.
The pending demolition is the latest round of protracted wrangling over the future of occupied Jerusalem, home to more than 500,000 Israelis and 300,000 Palestinians, and sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
In 1980, the Israeli regime’s parliament passed a law declaring the “complete and united” city of Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel including the eastern half that it captured in 1967.
But the United Nations regards East Jerusalem as occupied, and the city’s status as disputed until resolved by negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who say that East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Last month, the Israeli regime sent a “Notice of Intent to Demolish” to lawyers of the Sur Baher residents affected, informing them of the Supreme 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.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation accused the Israeli court of aiming “to set a precedent to enable the Israeli occupying forces to demolish numerous Palestinian buildings located in close proximity” to the wall.
On Wednesday, Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, and other UN officials called on the Israeli regime 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.”