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OCHA: West Bank permit holders 'isolated' in Jerusalem due to separation wall

The UN published a report last month noting that at least 16 Palestinian communities, with a combined population of around 2500 people, are currently located on the "Jerusalem side" of the separation wall, despite the fact that most of their residents hold West Bank permits. As a result, Israeli authorities have imposed many restrictions on their movement, leaving them isolated from both East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) highlights the particular case of the Bir Nabala / Tel Al-Adasa Bedouin community, which consists of nine families all belonging to the Al-Kaaba'na tribe that was displaced from occupied southern Palestine to Hebron in 1948.

The inhabitants of this community had been living in the area located between Ramallah and Jerusalem since the 1950's, based on an unofficial arrangement made with the landowners from the neighbouring town of Beit Hanina. However following the demolition of their homes, in the 1990's they were forced to settle in Bir Nabala / Tel Al-Adasa, located within the borders of the Jerusalem municipality.

According to the report, the community members all hold West Bank permits, which makes their existence within the borders of the Jerusalem municipality illegal according to Israeli law unless they are able to obtain permits from the Israeli authorities. In addition, they are now almost completely separated from the West Bank.

OCHA states that while the separation wall was ostensibly built in response to protect Israelis against the kind of attacks that were launched in 2002, the vast majority of the wall's route "is located within the occupied West Bank, rather than on the Green Line, separating Palestinian communities and farming land from the rest of the West Bank and contributing to the fragmentation of the occupied Palestinian territory."

The construction of the separation wall was completed in Bir Nabala in September 2007, and according to the report it has had an extremely negative effect on the Bedouin community of Tel Al-Adasa, because the inhabitants found themselves on the Jerusalem side of the separation wall, separating them from the service centre in Bir Nabala and the rest of the West Bank, and rendering them legally unable to reach East Jerusalem.

Some families were even forced to leave Tel Al-Adasa in 2010 / 2011, due to the strict limitations on their movement and transport.

Furthermore, in May 2012 the families were fined for building "without permits". However as OCHA notes, since the construction of the wall the Israeli authorities have not issued any members of the community building permits to continue living in their homes legally.

This is not unusual. According to the report: "Only 13 per cent of the West Bank areas annexed to Israel and incorporated into the Jerusalem Municipality is available for Palestinian residential construction, and most of this is built up already. In the remainder, Palestinians are unable to obtain building permits, as the land is allocated either for an Israeli settlement (35 per cent), a 'green' or public area (22 per cent), or has never been planned (30 per cent) by the municipal authorities."

In August of this year the Israeli Authorities forcefully demolished all of the buildings in the Tel Al-Adasa community. The remaining families had no choice but to move back to the West Bank side of the separation wall after the Israeli authorities ordered them to do so, threatening them with "arrest, fines and seizure of their sheep" if they failed to relocate. The community was displaced to two different areas on the West Bank side of the separation wall.

As a result, the inhabitants are currently stranded in the new areas without any building permits and unable to move except for emergencies out of fear that the Israeli authorities would not allow them to return to their homes. The women in particular have been isolated.

OCHA stresses the impact this situation has had on those families with school age children, especially due to the limitations on their movement. It is worth noting that 27 school age children currently live in the community. Some of these families have had to separate so the students can live in rented apartments in Bir Nabala in order to get to school easier.

Before the separation wall was constructed, they only lived a 15 minutes walk away from their schools.

The report also mentions that the at risk communities still in Jerusalem face many difficulties accessing health services, especially considering they are unable to move about in the neighbouring areas of East Jerusalem, due to their lack of permits.

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