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The State Prosecutor's Office never responded to some 400 High Court petitions filed by Palestinians seeking to save their West Bank homes from demolition orders - which means the homes cannot be demolished - according to an advocacy-group report released today.

The homes were classified by the state as being illegally built.

The state prosecutor justified its failure to act by stating that either way, the homes were unlikely to be demolished.

The report, released by the Regavim organization, which says its goal is to preserve "national lands," reveals an underreported trend in the West Bank: Palestinians petitioning the High Court to save their homes from demolitions ordered by the Civil Administration.

In most cases, once a petition is filed, the state issues an interim order preventing demolition. The state is then expected to respond to the petition, after which a date is set for a court hearing.

But in 400 such cases - involving 700 homes - the government never responded. This means the interim orders against the demolitions are left in place.

One such petition was filed in 1997 by a resident of the West Bank town of Anata, near Jerusalem. Judge Theodor Or filed a temporary order preventing the demolition, and for several years the case remained frozen, because the state never responded. The interim order is still in effect, and the homeowner therefore has immunity against demolition, granted by the High Court.

Regavim contacted the Attorney General's Office on the matter.

Deputy Attorney General Malkiel Blass stated in response, "There is a gap between the scope of the orders and the demolitions. In these circumstances, priorities must be drafted. After examining the matter, I didn't find any failings in the attorneys' actions."

"It is unacceptable to instruct an attorney to ask the court to hold a hearing on a petition over demolishing a home, when even if the petition is accepted, the structure will likely not be demolished," he wrote.