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.
During January 2017, OCHA recorded the demolition of 140 structures by the Israeli authorities, displacing around 240 Palestinians and affecting another 4,000. The number of structures demolished during the first month of the year was over 50 per cent higher than the monthly average of structures targeted in 2016 (91). All of these demolitions were carried out in Area C and East Jerusalem on the grounds of lack of building permits, although these are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians.
In September and October 2016 the Israeli authorities confiscated, demolished, or forced Palestinians to demolish, 155 structures across the West Bank, displacing some 240 people, half them children, and otherwise affecting more than 350 people. All but two of these incidents took place on the grounds that no Israeli-issued building permits had been issued, which are almost impossible to obtain. Although the average number of structures targeted during the past two months is 25 per cent lower than the monthly average for the previous eight months (January-August), the cumulative figure since the beginning of 2016 is over 80 per cent higher than during all of 2015 and the highest since OCHA began its records of demolitions in 2009.
Today, the Israeli Police forcibly evicted eight Palestinians, including two children, from their home in the Old City of East Jerusalem, and transferred the property to an Israeli settler organization (Ateret Cohanim), that reportedly purchased it in the 1980s. The evicted family has been renting this property since the 1930s. The home is part of a larger residential complex comprising nine apartments, eight of which were occupied by Israeli settlers in July 2010, causing the displacement of seven Palestinian households.
Demolitions across the West Bank surged in July and August 2016. The Israeli authorities demolished, forced people to demolished, or confiscated 177 Palestinian-owned structures, displacing 267 Palestinians and otherwise affecting the livelihoods of another 2,800 in the two-month period.
Since 2008, the Israeli authorities have introduced aged-based criteria during the month of Ramadan that allow Palestinians holding West Bank ID cards to access Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem for Friday prayers in lieu of the normal permit requirements. The criteria differ slightly every year but in 2013, 2015 and 2016 all Palestinian women, irrespective of age, were allowed to enter East Jerusalem for Friday prayers. In 2016, access for men was limited to males under 12 and above 45 years of age.
The Barrier in the Jerusalem area has transformed the geography, economy and social life of East Jerusalem and its wider metropolitan area. In the areas where it follows the Israeli-defined municipal boundary, the Barrier physically separates Palestinian communities onto either side of what had previously been only a jurisdictional division. Thus, some Jerusalem suburbs that were once closely connected to the city are now walled out, with previously flourishing residential and commercial centres closing down, and families being forced to leave to areas with better access to services and livelihoods.