An Israeli construction project in the West Bank was set to move forward near the settlement of Beit El, despite a lack of legal building permits for the structures and the Supreme Court ordering its demolition by the end of the month, Haaretz reported. Located on land initially expropriated for military purposes, the project was commissioned by the Civil Administration, the Israeli governing body of the country's captured territories.
The project, led by contractor Meir Dreinoff, would consist of two apartment buildings near the security fence surrounding the Beit El settlement. Most of Beit El's homes were built on land appropriated for security purposes, but the government has not been approving new projects in the West Bank recently. Construction started in 2010, but was halted later that year when the Yesh Din human rights organization filed a petition. On behalf of the organization, attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zacharia petitioned the Supreme Court to request the buildings' demolition.
The Civil Administration initially agreed to demolish the buildings, but later decided to issue building permits instead, pressured by Beit El settlers. After the Supreme Court's demolition order, the government held a hearing to advance the construction plans. Dreinoff and the government have petitioned the Supreme Court to cancel the demolition orders, but their petition was denied and the court reiterated its ruling to demolish the buildings by the end of July.
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Instead of preparing for the July demolition, the government has decided to continue to fight the ruling. In the meantime, the Civil Administration has held hearings to finalize the building permits. The permits are scheduled to be issued Sunday, Haaretz reported, after which Dreinoff and the Beit El local council were expected to petition the government and ask that the demolition order not be upheld because of the structures' legal building permits.
Settlers have continued efforts to aid construction advancement. The Beit El local council head, Shay Alon, has moved his office into one of the buildings even though it's illegal to do so in a demolition-ordered building, Haaretz reported.
A demonstration was held Wednesday where dozens of Beit El settlers blocked Route 60, the main thoroughfare between Nablus and Ramallah, and burned tires on the road. The Israel Police broke up the demonstration.
The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, which is responsible for the Civil Administration, recently issued a statement:
“The government is committed to the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court and is preparing to carry out its orders. At the same time, with regards to the land where the illegal structures are located, a planning application was submitted to local authorities and is currently being considered, in coordination with approval from the government.”