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Israel demolishes 81 Palestinian homes in eight months

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, Palestine: Israel has demolished more than 81 buildings belonging to the Palestinians in East Jerusalem since the beginning of this year.

“The escalation of demolitions has been accompanied by an increase in the risks of evacuating hundreds of Palestinians from their homes where they have lived for decades in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and Silwan town for the benefit of Israeli settlers,” Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Al-Hadmi said in a statement on Wednesday.

His remarks came during his meeting with representatives of South American countries accredited to the State of Palestine at his office during which he informed them of the “serious situation” in the occupied Jerusalem.

The meeting was attended by the ambassadors of Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Mexico.

“He [Al-Hadmi] also warned of the planned demolition of dozens of houses in al-Bustan neighbourhood in Silwan town,” the statement read, adding that the minister briefed the diplomats on “the dangers of the Israeli project called the East Jerusalem Center, which targets the most important commercial, cultural and population centres in East Jerusalem.”

Israeli authorities have recently announced plans to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes in al-Bustan and Batin al-Hawa neighbourhoods in Silwan.

International law regards both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there illegal.

A lawyer said a ruling by an Israeli court that dozens of home demolitions in a flashpoint Palestinian neighbourhood should be frozen for six months was “progress,” but not “victory”.

Israel had ordered the demolition of around 100 homes in Silwan, a Palestinian neighbourhood on the edge of the Old City in east Jerusalem, claiming they were built illegally on public land.

Monday’s court order froze most of those demolition orders until February 2022, while also allowing 16 homes to be razed immediately.

“I have reached the conclusion that there is space to grant a specific extension,” wrote Judge Sigal Albo of the Jerusalem Court for Local Affairs in the decision.

Lawyer Ziad Kawar, representing residents in the Al-Bustan area of Silwan, told news agencies that the ruling was “progress” but “not a victory.”

He said he would appeal to foreign diplomats to put pressure on Israel over home demolitions.

Kawar said his clients were applying for retroactive permission for their homes, which he said they built on their own private property without permission.

“It is not possible to get permits there,” Kawar said. Palestinians say the city rejects nearly all of their building permit applications.

Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967 and later annexed it in a move not recognized internationally.

Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

In the 1980s, settlers began moving into Silwan, which sits on land where — according to Jewish tradition — King David established his capital some 3,000 years ago, making the area hallowed ground in Jewish history.

Israelis have said they hope to build a park devoted to the biblical King David in Al-Bustan.

Israeli settlers regard Jerusalem, east and west, as the eternal capital of the Jewish people and a place that Jews themselves have repeatedly been forced to flee through the centuries.

Today several hundred settlers live in Silwan under heavy security, among about 50,000 Palestinians.