Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem continues to be weakened by Israeli settlements: UN

Israeli measures and policies are prioritizing the settler population of East Jerusalem at the expense of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem, said a new UN report released Monday.

"The Palestinian presence is being undermined by measures in East Jerusalem," Raymond Dolphin, who is the humanitarian affairs officer of OCHA, said here at a press conference.

The report, entitled "East Jerusalem: Key Humanitarian Concerns, " documents the humanitarian impact of Israeli policies on the estimated 270,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, which risk undermining the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem in the long term.

According to the report, East Jerusalem, which traditionally was a hub of Palestinian healthcare, education, social, economic and religious activity, has become increasingly isolated from the rest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Dolphin said that current problems include residency rights in East Jerusalem since Palestinians in East Jerusalem are not regarded as citizens. "Thousands had their residency revoked since 1967," he said, adding that according to sources up to 1,000 children are not registered in East Jerusalem.

Some 35 percent of the land in East Jerusalem has been confiscated for the construction and expansion of settlements and only 13 percent of the land in East Jerusalem is planned for Palestinians, according to the report. "It leaves them no option but to build illegal but if they build illegal they risk having their house demolished," Dolphin said.

More than 2,000 homes have been demolished since 1967, according to Dolphin.

"Contrast that with the thousands of housing for settlers that have been constructed in East Jerusalem," Dolphin said.

Maxwell Gaylard, who is the UN humanitarian and resident coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, said that " despite these difficulties, East Jerusalem continues to be the center of life for Palestinians throughout the occupied Palestinian territory."

"Access by Palestinians to the city from throughout the Palestinian territory is essential to maintain Palestinian life in East Jerusalem," Gaylard said.

The Israeli government, under international law, is responsible for meeting the humanitarian needs of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the remainder of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the report noted.

The latest round of U.S.-brokered peace talks halted in September 2010, due to a dispute over Jewish settlement building. The Palestinians maintained they cannot negotiate with Israel while the construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967, goes on.

Source: Xinhua

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