14 May 2011 – The United Nations humanitarian chief today called for an end to the forced displacement of Palestinians from Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank, saying Israeli planning rules were having an unacceptable impact on Palestinian communities.
On the first day of a four-day visit to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos travelled to East Jerusalem and the West Bank village of Nabi Samwil.
Ms. Amos, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, saw the barrier – which Israel has said it erected for security reasons – and noted that 85 per cent of its route lies inside the West Bank. As a result about 8,500 Palestinians live in closed areas between the barrier and the Green Line.
In Nabi Samwil, the barrier separates the village from the rest of the West Bank, with residents unable to travel to nearby Jerusalem without permits, and forced to pass through a checkpoint to reach neighbouring West Bank villages. New construction is forbidden in the village because of what Ms. Amos described as a “highly restrictive planning regime” in operation.
“I am horrified by the way the barrier affects Palestinians,” she said in a statement issued by her office. “It divides communities and inhibits the provision of services. I visited a one-room school with no windows and very few facilities, which can't be improved because the planning rules don't allow it. This is unacceptable.”
In her visit to East Jerusalem Ms. Amos noted that only 13 per cent of land there is available for Palestinian use and therefore it is overcrowded. About 60,000 residents of East Jerusalem face demolition of their homes because they have no choice but to build without permits, she said.
“These policies lead to forced displacement of Palestinians from Jerusalem and from the rest of the West Bank. Palestinians must be able to plan and develop their communities. They must be able to access education and health-care facilities and to conduct their professional and personal lives without restriction.”
Tomorrow Ms. Amos is slated to visit Ramallah and meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other members of the Palestinian leadership.
The Under-Secretary-General is also scheduled to travel to the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem and Area C, which comprises 60 per cent of the West Bank and is under full Israeli control. She also hopes to meet with Israeli authorities in Tel Aviv.