According to a report in the Haaretz daily, the court turned down an appeal against demolishing apartment buildings located in the Wadi al-Hummus section of the Sur Baher, a Palestinian neighborhood in the southeastern outskirts of East Jerusalem. Wadi al-Hummus is legally considered to be under the control of the Palestinian Authority, despite the fact that it is on the Israeli side of the demarcation line between the two states.
Many of the buildings in the Wadi al-Hummus neighborhood are occupied by young couples and families, Haaretz reported. The buildings to be demolished contain about 100 apartments; 20 of those have tenants, and the rest are under construction. According to the report, building permits for the structures were issued by the Palestinian Authority’s planning ministry.
Although the Israel Defense Forces Central Command has banned construction within 250 meters of the demarcation line, Wadi al-Hummus residents claim that they were not notified of the bans and built homes in the area without understanding that they were outlawed.
In the ruling, Israeli Justices Menny Mazuz, Uzi Fogelman and Yitzhak Amit 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."
According to a Palestinian Authority offiical, the High Court’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent that may allow the demolition of numerous buildings near the Green Line throughout the West Bank.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg," Attorney Haitham Khatib, who is representing Wadi al-Hummus residents against the Israeli Defense Ministry, told Haaretz. "The [Israeli] army has been given a green light and will start to act in all the different areas.”
One of the buildings set for demolition includes the home of Bilal Qiyaniya and his family.
“I have worked hard since I was 17, putting a shekel aside every day, and after 20 years I put all my money, plus loans that I took, into this building," Qiyaniya, who has five children, told Haaretz.
"Now they’re [going to] send me back 20 years. The children keep asking when they’re coming to demolish the house. I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ll have to live in the street.”