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Following the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem to its territory, in contravention of international law. Palestinians living in Jerusalem were given the status of “permanent residents” of Israel, which typically provides them with greater freedom of movement than Palestinians from other parts of the oPt and allows them to pay into the social services system, to receive health and social security coverage. However, this status can be revoked on various grounds, denying the affected residents their right to live in the oPt, including in East Jerusalem, as happened to over 14,000 people since 1967. Other Israeli policies have negatively affected Palestinians’ ability to plan and develop their communities and enjoy the services they are entitled to, further undermining their presence in the city. In addition, Israeli measures have increasingly cut off East Jerusalem, once the focus of political, commercial, religious and cultural life for the entire Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory, from the rest of the West Bank and from the Gaza Strip.
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It is estimated that 199 Palestinian households currently have eviction cases filed against them, the majority initiated by settler organizations, placing 877 people, including 391 children, at risk of displacement. Evictions can have a grave physical, social, economic and emotional impact on the affected families.
We are following with sadness today the Israeli authorities’ destruction of homes in the Palestinian community of Sur Bahir. Initial information emerging from the community indicates that hundreds of Israeli forces entered the community this morning and have demolished a number of residential buildings, including inhabited homes, located in Areas A, B and C of the West Bank on the East Jerusalem side of the Barrier. The large-scale operation began in the early hours of this morning while it was still dark, forcing families out of their homes, and causing great distress among residents. Among those forcibly displaced or otherwise impacted are Palestine refugees, some of whom today are facing the reality of a second displacement in living memory.
As in previous years, UNOCHA and humanitarian partners monitored the checkpoints controlling access into East Jerusalem and Hebron during the holy month of Ramadan (5 May- 4 June 2019) to identify assess ease of access for Friday prayers, identify potential protection risks and possible mitigation measures for the multitudes seeks to cross the checkpoints. Particular attention is given to the most vulnerable amongst those seeking access including children, pregnant women, the disabled, and the elderly. This monitoring also informs UNOCHA’s analysis of broader access trends. On the four Fridays of Ramadan 2019, monitoring teams comprising staff members from UNOCHA, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and the United Nations’ Office for Human Rights (OHCHR) observed access at permitted entry points into Jerusalem (Qalandiya, Gilo/Bethlehem and Zaytoun) and access into the Old City of Jerusalem. In addition, monitoring teams were stationed at the entrance of the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in the H2 area of Hebron.
Houses to be demolished in Sur Bahir because of proximity to the Barrier: Sur Bahir (pop. 24,000) is a Palestinian neighbourhood in the south east of Jerusalem. Most of Sur Bahir is located within the unilaterally-annexed East Jerusalem municipal area, but the community reports that they own some 4,000 dunums of land in Area A and B and C, as designated under the Oslo Accords. Uniquely, the Barrier has been routed around Sur Bahir so that parts of Area A, B and C fall on the ‘Jerusalem’ side. The residents’ local committee estimates that some 6,000 people, or a quarter of the population, currently live in these Oslo-defined areas. Despite this, these areas have not been incorporated within the municipal boundary, although they are now physically separated from the remainder of the West Bank. In practice, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is unable to access or deliver services to Area A and B in Sur Bahir, although they still issue building permits in these areas, as they have been authorized to do under the Oslo Accords.
As reported in last month’s Bulletin, some 60 homes and other structures were demolished in East Jerusalem in April, due to lack of building permits. This is the highest number in a single month since OCHA began to systematically record demolitions in 2009. More people have already been displaced in East Jerusalem in the first four months of 2019 than in all of 2018. Although no demolitions occurred in East Jerusalem in May, it has been the practice of the Israeli authorities to refrain from conducting demolitions during the month of Ramadan and demolitions are expected to resume after the Eid holiday in June.
In East Jerusalem, as in Area C of the West Bank, a restrictive planning regime applied by Israel makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits, impeding the development of adequate housing, infrastructure and livelihoods. Only 13 per cent of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built up, while 35 per cent has been allocated for Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.