Tens of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem could become homeless unless Israel freezes the demolition of homes that violate zoning restrictions
Many Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem face losing their homes
A UN agency has asked Israel to freeze the demolition of Arab homes in East Jerusalem, citing a housing crisis in the part of the city claimed as a future Palestinian capital.
Over a quarter of the 225,000 Palestinians in annnexed East Jerusalem risk having their homes demolished by the Israeli authorities because they were built without permits, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report published on Friday.
To date, approximately 1,500 demolition orders have been issued in East Jerusalem, which if implemented, would leave about 9,000 people homeless, almost half of them children.
Palestinians say the demolitions are an attempt to push them out of the city, but municipal authorities insist they simply follow the law and raze houses built without the necessary permits.
The OCHA report said that at least 28 percent of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been built without Israeli permits, which residents say are nearly impossible to obtain. These homes now face possible demolition.
The report also claims that planners have earmarked only 13 percent of annexed East Jerusalem for Palestinian construction, while one third has been expropriated for settlement housing projects.
About 200,000 Israeli settlers live in East Jerusalem. Israeli settlements there and in the rest of the West Bank are one of the main stumbling blocks in the moribund Middle East peace process.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem after capturing the city in the 1967 Six Day War, declaring the city its "eternal, undivided capital."
The move has not been recognised by the international community and all foreign embassies are located in the commercial capital Tel Aviv.