Ramallah: Hikes in property tax by the municipality of Occupied Jerusalem will eventually force Palestinian residents out of their homes, according to Ziad Al Hamouri, who heads the Jerusalem Centre for Social and Economic Rights.

Currently 85 per cent of Palestinian residents are in debt, owing in the region of 25 million Shekels (Dh25.51 million) and many believe these high taxes will be more effective than demolition of their homes in making them move.

The municipal property tax known as ‘Arnona’, will be the invisible factor causing Palestinian residents to lose their properties, Al Hamouri told Gulf News. He likened the situation to 1948, when many Palestinians were forced out of their homes for this same reason. Their homes are now inhabited by Israelis.

According to Israeli law, Palestinian retailers in Occupied Jerusalem must pay 280 Shekels (Dh285.77) per square metre of property annually, while those living in residential buildings pay 50 to 120 Shekels (Dh51 to Dh122.47) per square metre.

Jewish colonists, however, living in colonies in the Occupied West Bank, do not have to pay taxes for long periods of time, on the pretext that they’re living in areas which are still developing.