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Residence lacks permit; Palestinians at brink of eviction in Jerusalem

Residence lacks permit; Palestinians at brink of eviction in Jerusalem

Al-Tur, Occupied East Jerusalem: Occupants of a residential building, nearly 70 Palestinians, are at the risk of forced displacement in the neighbourhood of Al-Tur as they await an Israeli court verdict, Al-Jazeera reports. About half of the people who reside in the five-storied building are children.

The building, which houses about ten families, was constructed without an Israeli issued building permit in 2012. Israeli occupation authorities have said the same and asked the families to move out. They told the residents on November 4 that they had a week left before the building would be demolished. The residents were also offered another choice that they pay refundable 64,400 dollars and have until the end of the month to demolish, or the state will do it for them at the cost of 6,44,000 dollars.

But the residents filed an appeal on Monday, and the court verdict is expected on Thursday. They have chosen to remain there till the bulldozers arrive. They have already spent nine years in courts battling the demolition order but in vain. They told Al Jazeera that though they met authorities, their need was rejected on different pretexts each time. They don't have the money the state asked to pay, nor do they wish to demolish the building themselves.

The families have been paying 24,153 dollars per year to Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality for living in an unlicensed building. They also pay high property taxes as well as lawyers fees. Some of them are in debt, and some cannot afford to rent a home in another area. Some of the residents told Al Jazeera in despair that the authorities were draining them emotionally and financially. They said that they decided to live there even if they were forced to live in tents.

According to the residents' lawyer, authorities refused licences stating that the land is zoned for public use and they intend to build a school there.

Many human rights groups and Palestinians have documented Israeli authorities' refusal to issue building permits in East Jerusalem. But the United Nations says it is part of a "restrictive planning regime" that makes it impossible for Palestinians to get building permits. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said that inappropriate planning of Palestine neighbourhoods has led to illegal constructions and their demolitions. Only 13 per cent of occupied East Jerusalem is currently zoned for Palestinian development and residential construction, but much of it is already built up. It added that around 57 per cent of lands here had been confiscated from private Palestinian owners after Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1962 war. The remaining 30 per cent comprises unplanned areas, and constructions are banned there.

Al-Tur is one of the most overcrowded Palestinian neighbourhoods in Jerusalem. There are two illegal Israeli settlements built in its land. The neighbouring Palestinian villages, settler roads and the Separation Wall were already choking Al-Tur. The only chance to expand the neighbourhood was towards the northeast, but that land is also reserved for a national park.

An Israeli rights group had written in 2014 that residents of Al-Tur, particularly those who live in the unrecognised and unplanned areas, are under constant threat of being evacuated. The lawyer who defends the ten families says that he also defends 155 other buildings and homes without a permit in the Khallet al-Ain area. And OCHA noted that at least one-third of all Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem lack building permits, which places more than 1,00,000 residents at risk of displacement.

Meanwhile, local NGOs and rights groups allege that Israeli authorities' practices and policies in Jerusalem aim to alter the demographic ratio in favour of Jews to maintain a Jewish majority in the city.

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TAGS:Israel OccupationPalestine#evacuation
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