Israeli border police demolished on Monday four buildings that were erected without permits in the Palestinian village of al-Walaja, wounding 10 people in the process. One resident claimed to have been shot with live fire. The wounded were taken to a hospital in Beit Jala.
About 40 people had been said to live in the buildings. The demolition marked the first violent incident the area has seen in years. The village lies within the jurisdiction of southern Jerusalem and the West Bank.
During the operation, several dozen residents barricaded themselves in one of the buildings and threw rocks at the police. They were evacuated by force with the use of gas grenades and rubber bullets.
In the last two years, construction of the separation wall near the village was completed, though it severed the villagers from much of their farmlands. They were also cut off from Ein Hanya, the second-largest spring in the Judean Hills, which has become a tourism spot.
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After years in which al-Walaja had been left alone, the Justice Ministry recently began a major enforcement drive.
Last week, the District Court rejected an appeal by residents to prevent the demolition of the buildings. Meanwhile, another 33 buildings face demolition. “They want to wipe out the village,” says Itai Peleg, a lawyer representing some of the villagers.
On Sunday Peleg filed for permission to appeal to the High Court of Justice, further to the demolition of the buildings, protesting that the state and the Jerusalem municipality don’t provide services to al-Walaja other than “home demolition services.”
There are clear issues of justice, Peleg wrote in his motion, adding “in the primal meaning of the word.
"The conduct of the State of Israel toward the petitioners and residents of al-Walaja in general is as far as east is from west, and from justice, in its simplest meaning. As described below, there is no dispute that the State of Israel and its various authorities and the Jerusalem municipality give the residents of al-Walaja no service whatsoever other than ‘home demolition service.’ In practice the state and the municipality do not see al-Walaja as part of the territory of the state, for all intents and purposes, other than to destroy the villagers’ homes,” he said.
This cannot be in a law-abiding country, Peleg said, adding that there is no planning for the village, which can only be described as a crime.
“The residents’ attempts to submit a master plan were thwarted by the objection of the state and subsequently, the planning authorities. In this situation of criminal neglect of the village and its residents, the only service the state gives them is ‘home demolition service.’ This is an impossible, illegal situation that contradicts the most minimal fairness,” he said.
Forty people had lost their homes – and there are 800 more people in al-Walaja whose homes the state intends to raze, he wrote.
“For years the residents of al-Walaja have adhered to non-violent struggle, and have tried to prepare a master plan for the village. The Israeli authorities refuse to approve the plan, which means that whole parts of the village could be demolished,” said Aviv Tatarsky, who visited the place on Monday on behalf of the Ir Amim organization.
The mission is “to render Jerusalem a more equitable and sustainable city for the Israelis and Palestinians who share it," Tatarsky said.