UN Calls for Halt as Israel Demolishes More Palestinian Homes in Jerusalem

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UN Calls for Halt as Israel Demolishes More Palestinian Homes in Jerusalem
28 October 2009
Israel Levels Palestinian Homes Al Jazeera 28 October 2009 Israeli authorities have torn down several Palestinian houses in occupied east Jerusalem on grounds that the structures were built illegally. Gidi Schmerling, a Jerusalem municipality spokesman, said the affected houses and structures were in the neighbourhoods of Shuafat, Sur Baher, Silwan and Jabel Mukabar. "All the houses were demolished in accordance with a court order," he said on Tuesday in a statement to the AFP news agency. The Palestinians have long accused the municipality of discriminating against them and making it virtually impossible to get legal permits for new homes or extensions to existing ones. As a result, thousands of illegal structures were erected in recent decades with Israel issuing demolition orders and destroying dozens of houses each year. Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, had vowed to crack down on illegal construction in the city, including east Jerusalem, whose fate is one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Earlier this year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for a halt to home demolitions in East Jerusalem. Shift in Balance Threatened demolitions have also raised tensions in the eastern half of the city, with Palestinians holding regular protests and filing court cases. The United States, which is seeking to revive peace talks in the long-standing dispute, called the latest demolition exercise "unhelpful." An Israeli rights group, Ir Amim, criticised the demolitions as "an irresponsible step that could escalate the situation in the city and bring it to a new boiling point." Palestinians and human rights groups have condemned Israel's demolition policy, accusing it of using the demolition to shift east Jerusalem's demographic balance. "International bodies and the United Nations Security Council should intervene to stop Israeli authorities from carrying out these criminal actions," said Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian-appointed governor of Jerusalem. A UN report in May showed that 1,500 demolition orders issued by the Jerusalem municipality were pending for illegal Palestinian dwellings. The report said that if the orders were implemented, about 9,000 Palestinians would be displaced. There are some 200,000 Jews living in East Jerusalem, alongside an estimated 250,000 Palestinians. Original article **** UN Calls on Israel to Halt Demolition of Palestinian Homes 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. Original press release

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