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East Jerusalem: Key Humanitarian Concerns - Special focus March 2011

Situation Report
Originally published


Executive Summary

This report focuses on East Jerusalem and forms part of a series by OCHA which examines the humanitarian impact of Israeli measures, such as the Barrier, settlements and planning and zoning restrictions, on Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The report mainly focuses on the area unilaterally annexed to Israel and included within the municipal boundary of Jerusalem following the 1967 war. This annexation is not recognized by the international community, and the Security Council has resolved that all legislative measures and actions taken by Israel to alter the character and status of Jerusalem are null and void (see, inter alia, Security Council resolutions 252, 267, 471, 476 and 478).

In the years since 1967, Israel has undertaken measures - in particular land confiscation, settlement building and construction of the Barrier - which serve to alter the status of East Jerusalem, contrary to international law. Government and municipal policies have also negatively impacted the estimated 270,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem.1 As this report demonstrates, these policies affect their residency status, their access to education and health services, and their ability to plan and develop their communities. This report is designed to document the impact of these measures on the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem, in order to raise awareness, offer recommendations, and contribute to an enhanced response to humanitarian, early recovery and development needs.

Combined, these policies significantly increase the humanitarian vulnerability of the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Although Palestinians are remaining in the city, in the long term, failure to address these 'push factors' risks undermining the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem.

East Jerusalem has traditionally served as the focus of political, commercial, religious and cultural life for the entire Palestinian population of the oPt. Following the 1967 annexation, Palestinians from the remainder of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been prevented from residing within the Israeli-defined municipal boundary, other than through the increasingly restrictive process of 'family unification.' Since the early 1990s, non-Jerusalem Palestinians have been compelled by the Israeli authorities to obtain permits just to access the city, including to places of worship during Ramadan and Easter.

The number of such permits granted is limited, and access of permit holders into East Jerusalem is restricted to four checkpoints. The majority of checkpoints leading into the Jerusalem area have been incorporated into the Barrier, which is itself compounding the separation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

In addition to this administrative and physical separation, the Palestinian Authority is not allowed, under the Oslo Accords, to operate in East Jerusalem and the closure of Palestinian institutions, such as Orient House, is continually renewed, notwithstanding Israel's commitments under the Roadmap. This has led to a political and institutional vacuum which, in addition to restrictive residency and access policies, is resulting in East Jerusalem becoming increasingly separated from the remainder of the occupied Palestinian territory - physically, politically, socially and culturally.

Pending a final status agreement, East Jerusalem remains an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory and the Palestinian population of the territory should have the right to access East Jerusalem, including for specialized health and education, work, social, cultural & family relationships and for worship at the Muslim and Christian holy places.

Therefore, while primarily focusing on the issues facing the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, this report will also emphasize the continuing importance of the city as a centre of life for Palestinians throughout the oPt, at a time when East Jerusalem is becoming increasingly separated from the remainder of the occupied Palestinian territory.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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