Occupied Jerusalem, ALRAY - From the moment Jerusalem was occupied in 1967, Israel made the annexation of the city a top agenda item. Over time, it aggressively expropriated large tracts of land to establish settlements, strategically reshaping the region's geopolitical landscape. This calculated approach has paved the path for Israel to assert full control over the territory.
With a strategic agenda, the occupying forces are working to ensure an overwhelming Jewish majority in the captured city, intending for this demographic composition to hold significant sway in potential future accords. Simultaneously, they are physically segregating the city from the surrounding occupied West Bank by establishing extensive Jewish settlements. Furthermore, local inhabitants of Jerusalem are being uprooted and encouraged to relocate beyond the municipal confines of Jerusalem.
Throughout its history, Jerusalem has frequently taken the spotlight in a series of United Nations resolutions. These began with the pivotal General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947, followed by subsequent resolutions addressing the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. As a territory under occupation, the city is subject to both international law and human rights principles, both of which denounce actions taken by Israel.
In line with international customary law outlined in the United Nations Charter (Article 2, Paragraph 4), forcibly obtaining land is deemed illegitimate. Thus, Israel's seizure of the east of Jerusalem and its subsequent dominion are viewed as illegal under this framework.
Over the course of the years since 1967, authorities of the occupying force have taken control of 25 square kilometers of land situated in the east of Jerusalem. This seizure represents approximately 35% of the entire 70 square kilometers area. The justification provided for this action is the "public interest," as highlighted by Fakhri Abu Diab, a researcher specializing in Jerusalem affairs.
He explained the combined land area of both the eastern and western parts of Jerusalem cover 125,400 dunams, equivalent to about 125 square kilometers. This entire expanse falls under the jurisdiction of the "Jerusalem Municipality." Jerusalem holds the title of being the largest city in historic Palestine, boasting a population of 900,000 people. Among them, 39% are Palestinians, while the remaining 61% are occupied Jews.
He further noted that the Palestinian population in the east of Jerusalem stands at 340,000, while there are 220,000 settlers. He highlighted that the occupation has established 10 major settlements within the holy city, encompassing a total of 55,000 settlement units.
He illustrated that the occupying authorities have expropriated 3,004 properties owned by Jerusalem residents in the eastern part of the city since 1967. These residents were subsequently displaced from their homes, with settlers being relocated in their stead, particularly in the Old City, the Sharaf neighborhood, the Silwan district, and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
In the current year of 2023, the Israeli government, in collaboration with its municipal authorities and settler organizations, has given the green light for the establishment of 13,000 settlement units in the east of Jerusalem. Work on these units continues to progress.
According to Abu Diab, Israeli occupation authorities have revoked the residency status of around 20,115 Jerusalemites since 1967. Moreover, they have demolished 3,124 houses in the eastern part of the city. Additionally, 615 homes were forcibly demolished by their owners, following coercion from the municipality to avoid the hefty demolition costs imposed by its mechanisms. This has resulted in the displacement of 16,200 residents, as per Abu Diab's statements.
The looming threat of demolition extends to 22,416 houses, under the pretext of unauthorized construction. The areas surrounding the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque, encompassed within the historical "Haram al-Sharif" compound, spanning 27,500 dunams, are particularly susceptible to this danger.
The Jerusalem researcher indicated that these areas encompass neighborhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Mount Scopus, Mount of Olives, and Jebel Mukaber.
It's highlighted by the researcher that nearly half, or 46%, of the demolition orders, are concentrated in Silwan and Jebel Mukaber areas. Furthermore, the occupation has established 87 settlement outposts within Silwan neighborhoods and has taken control of 27% of its lands, primarily for the objectives of Judaization and settlement activities.
The number of settlers in Silwan reached around 3,150 settlers, while the Old City is home to approximately 4,000 settlers, specifically in the Moroccan Quarter and the Sharaf neighborhood, both of which have been seized and their inhabitants displaced.
According to Abu Diab's findings, approximately 87% of Jerusalem's land has been designated as green areas, barring construction. This allocation predominantly serves settlements, roads, and bypass routes. Conversely, a mere 13% is open for construction by the city's Palestinian residents.
This limited space has become densely populated due to natural population growth, rendering construction challenging. Currently, a mere 2% of available land in northern Jerusalem permits building. Abu Diab reports that nearly all building permit applications (97%) from Jerusalem residents to the occupation municipality are denied, while the approval rate for settlers stands at 99%.
The occupation's endeavors extend beyond this, with 22 expansion plans unveiled this year alone, projecting a total of 16,060 new settlement units in East Jerusalem.
In contrast, the United Nations recognizes East Jerusalem as occupied land under the framework of the Fourth Geneva Convention, debunking Israel's claims to sovereignty. This stance is underscored by UN Security Council Resolution 252 of 1968, which invalidates Israel's efforts to change Jerusalem's legal status.