Israel to decide fate of 70 Palestinian families facing eviction from Jerusalem neighbourhood
Israel’s High Court is expected to mull over a petition that calls on authorities to axe a planned demolition in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan on Sunday, where 70 Palestinian families face possible eviction.
The petition, which was submitted by 104 residents of Batan al-Hawa who represent the 70 Palestinian families, was a response to an eviction demanded by the Jewish Benvenisti Trust.
Earlier this month, reports said Israel's housing minister is planning to build a new settlement close the blockaded Gaza Strip in relation to mass protests and the worst flare-up since a 2014 war.
Yoav Galant, who is also a Security Cabinet member, who submitted plans to build the settlement to house at least 500 families just seven kilometres from the Palestinian enclave, Israel Hayom reported.
Galant hopes the settlement will be set up near the religious Kibbutz Saad, which has been the target of numerous rocket attacks from Gaza.
The report comes after more than 100 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during protests along the border with Gaza.
In the same month, Israel's Supreme Court met in an expanded panel of nine justices to consider striking down a law on settlements so contentious that the attorney general refuses to defend it.
The law, allowing expropriation of private Palestinian land for Jewish settlers, triggered an outpouring of condemnation from around the world when it was passed by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in February last year.
Israeli and Palestinian rights groups, on behalf of 17 Palestinian villages, asked the court to declare the act unconstitutional and in August it issued a restraining order against implementation, pending its ruling.
The act, labelled by the UN as a "thick red line", legalises dozens of wildcat outposts and thousands of settler homes in the occupied West Bank.
Its opponents see it as promoting at least partial annexation of the territory, a key demand for parts of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's right-wing government.
The petition against the act, seen by AFP, argues that by giving preference to Jewish settlers over the rights of Palestinian landowners it breaches an international convention on Apartheid.
"The clear, declared purpose of the law, which seeks to privilege the interests of one group on an ethnic basis and leads to the dispossession of the Palestinians, leaves no doubt that this law involves crimes under the convention," it says.
It was not known when the court would deliver its ruling.
International law considers all settlements to be illegal, but Israel distinguishes between those it sanctions and those it does not, dubbed outposts.
The new law allows Israel to legally seize Palestinian private land on which Israelis built outposts.
In January, Israel approved more than 1,100 new settlement homes have been approved by the Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank.
A total of 1,122 housing units were advanced, including seven already existing homes given retroactive approval.
The bulk of the approvals are for settlements deep in the West Bank, said Ofran, which would need to be evacuated by Israel as part of any two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"It's a part of the general trend that the government is doing, which is to build all over the West Bank, even more in places that Israel would need to evict, and in this way to torpedo the possibility for a two-state solution," Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said.
At least 6,742 housing projects were approved in settlements last year, the highest figure since 2013.
In December, the central committee of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud party unanimously adopted a resolution urging its own elected officials "to allow free construction and the application of (Israeli) legislation to all liberated Jewish settlement areas" in the territory.
If such a text were adopted by the government, it would definitively end the "two-state solution" by making a Palestinian state impossible.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas criticised the Likud resolution and the United States' refusal to condemn Israeli "crimes against the Palestinian people".
Abbas said the vote would not have taken place without "total support" from Washington.
Israel's settlement project in the occupied territories is illegal under international law and seen by the international community as a major obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.
About 400,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements in the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel for 50 years.
A further 200,000 live in East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel in a move never recognised by the international community.