Israel Razes Buildings in Jerusalem-area Palestinian Village

The two orders were carried out despite an application for a stay of execution of the demolition order that apparently never reached the court.

The homes of Al-Walaja looking down on the agricultural terraces and a barbed-wire Israeli fence.
Emil Salman

For the first time in years, the state has demolished two illegal structures in Kafr Walaja, part of which lies within the Jerusalem city limits but beyond the separation barrier.

The two orders were carried out despite an application for a stay of execution of the demolition order that apparently never reached the court.

Although part of Walaja lies within Jerusalem’s borders, it has no ties with the city authorities. The city does not provide services to the village and the overwhelming majority of its residents are not permitted to enter Jerusalem. Over the past year work has resumed to erect the separation barrier around the village.

Several demolition orders in Walaja have been the subject of court cases but were never carried out. In other areas beyond the separation barrier, particularly in the area of the Shoafat refugee camp and Kafr Aqab, in northern Jerusalem, thousands of homes have been built without permits and yet the state has not carried out demolitions there in years.

On Sunday, demolition notices were pasted on six buildings in Walaja. The owners of three of the structures applied for, and received, a stay of the demolition order. Attorney Eitan Peleg submitted similar requests in two other cases, but for reasons that are not clear they were not heard by a judge that evening.

At the same time, the request was sent to Assaf Stern, the legal counsel for the Jerusalem District Planning Committee. According to Peleg, Stern was asked not to allow the demolitions to go ahead until a judge could rule on a stay of the demolition order. At 6 A.M. on Wednesday, however, bulldozers came and tore down demolished three of the buildings, including the two for which Peleg had requested a delay.

Peleg was furious with the actions of Stern and the district planning committee, which he deemed illegal.

“The authorities are not permitted to act when they know there’s a request pending and when delays have been granted in response to similar requests,” he said.

Peleg asked the president of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, Judge Avital Chen, to ascertain why a judge did not review the request before the demolition.

A source close to the district planning committee says that Stern had told Peleg that so long as there was no decision on a delay, the demolition would go ahead.

The Finance Ministry, which is responsible for the district planning committee, said the six structures had been built on lands zoned as open areas. “Three of the structures were not inhibited by court order when the demolition was carried out. The demolition orders were properly issued and properly executed,” the Finance Ministry said.

The Justice Ministry, for whom Stern works, wrote in a response, “The prosecutor handling the case called Peleg and told him that there had been requests submitted to the court regarding those two orders, and that we oppose delaying the demolition. During the conversation, it was made clear to Peleg that so long as there is no decision delaying the orders, they would be carried out.”