UN calls on Israel to halt demolition of Palestinian homes

Bus used by the Israeli-Arab population for destinations in East Jerusalem. Photo: Wierzba

27 October 2009 – The United Nations today called on Israel to immediately halt forced evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, warning that as many as 60,000 people there may be at risk of forced evictions, demolitions and displacement.

Israeli authorities demolished the homes of six Palestinian families – 26 people, including 10 children – in East Jerusalem today. This brings the number displaced through forced evictions or house demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) to 600, half of them children, since the beginning of the year, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported. At least 500 more have been affected by partial demolitions of their homes or livelihoods.

“Such actions run counter to international law and have a serious and long-term negative impact on Palestinian families and communities,” OCHA said. “The UN reiterates its call for an immediate and unconditional halt to such actions and urges the State of Israel to protect the civilian population in oPt from further displacement and dispossession.”

Israel occupied the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, in the 1967 war and annexed the latter in a move not recognized internationally. According to Israeli authorities house demolitions are carried out on homes that have been built without official building permits, rendering them “illegal.”

But, OCHA said, “lack of adequate planning combined with strict administrative requirements and high fees makes it extremely difficult for Palestinian residents to obtain such permits, leaving them no choice but to build ‘illegally’ to provide shelter for their families. Palestinian families who move outside the municipal boundaries risk losing their Jerusalem ID [identity] cards, and with it the right to live in and access the city.”

According to conservative estimates, as many as 60,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem may be at risk of forced evictions, demolitions and displacement.

“Many others are facing mounting pressure to leave the city as a result of extensive physical, legal and administrative restrictions that affect every aspect of their daily lives,” OCHA concluded.

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