Israeli court freezes razing of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem's Silwan
An Israeli court in Jerusalem has ruled that dozens of home demolitions in a flashpoint neighbourhood of Silwan should be frozen for six months, in a move that is being described as "progress", but not "victory".
Monday's court order froze most of those demolition orders until February 2022, while also allowing 16 homes to be razed immediately.
"I have reached the conclusion that there is space to grant a specific extension," wrote Judge Sigal Albo of the Jerusalem Court for Local Affairs in the decision.
Lawyer Ziad Kawar, representing residents in the Al-Bustan area of Silwan, told AFP the ruling was "progress" but "not a victory". He said he would appeal to foreign diplomats to put pressure on Israel over home demolitions.
Kawar said his clients were applying for retroactive permission for their homes, which he said they built on their own private property without permission.
"It is not possible to get permits there," Kawar said. Palestinians say the city rejects nearly all of their building permit applications.
Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
In the 1980s, settlers began moving into Silwan, which sits on land where -- according to Jewish tradition -- King David established his capital some 3,000 years ago, making the area hallowed ground in Jewish history.
Israelis have said they hope to build a park devoted to the biblical King David in Al-Bustan.
Israeli settlers regard Jerusalem, east and west, as the eternal capital of the Jewish people and a place that Jews themselves have repeatedly been forced to flee through the centuries.
Today several hundred settlers live in Silwan under heavy security, among about 50,000 Palestinians.
Refusing permits essentially denies Palestinians rights to their homes in the occupied territory.
Not having a permit puts Palestinians at risk of eviction and in some cases being forced to destroy their own homes and businesses.
Activists say this creates a legal loophole for Israel to annex more land, leaving Palestinians in limbo by preventing them from developing their homes and communities.
Four out of five Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem live under the poverty line, and applying for building permits comes with various taxes and fees amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.
Between 2010 and 2014, only 1.5 percent of all Palestinian building permit applications across the occupied West Bank were approved by Israel, according to the UN.
The cost of a permit for a single home is estimated to be in the region of $30,000.
#SaveSilwan in the face of demolitions
Residents have urged international solidarity to pressure Israel to halt the demolitions.
The #SaveSilwan hashtag has been trending on social media.
Israeli courts have dismissed documents dating to Ottoman times presented by Palestinian families showing ownership of homes in Batn Al-Hawa, which is also part of East Jerusalem’s Silwan district.
Rights groups, including Amnesty International, have demanded the evictions in Silwan be stopped.
Israel came under strong criticism this year during the attempted expulsion of residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
Agencies contributed to this report.