Ramallah: Construction in occupied Jerusalem has recently been opened up to private companies in a bid to ease increasing international pressure to put a stop to it.

It's a clever way of shirking responsibility given that most private development companies in occupied Jerusalem are owned by wealthy Israelis who have no problem obtaining a licence from the authorities to carry out the work.

"The private sector is out of the circle of the international pressure [and this means] the Israeli government will not be responsible in any way, and [dialogue on the matter] will be between the international community and the private sector only," Khalil Al Tafakji, head of the Maps and Colonies Department in occupied Jerusalem, told Gulf News.

"This is a very dangerous situation. Already Al Mukaber Mountain, Abu Dis, the Shaikh Jarah neighbourhood and many other areas have been targeted using this new technique," he added.

Development work will no longer be financed by the government but will be paid for solely by the private sector.

Critical state

"There are a total of 800 demolishing orders for houses in the old town of [occupied] Jerusalem, some of which have already been built, while others have been put on hold for some time," he said, adding that many of Palestinian residents in occupied Jerusalem are living in a critical state and that the Israeli government is using a strategy to evacuate them from their own land.

Al Tafakji said that since 1967, over 14,500 Palestinians have had to hand over their ID cards as they've been forced to move out of their own city.

"A real problem lies with the military order No. 1650, which states that a total of 55,000 residents of occupied Jerusalem are illegal immigrants in the city and should be evacuated," he said.

"They are men and women who married residents who were not from [occupied] Jerusalem, either from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or Jordan. Ever since, those people are not permitted to carry [occupied] Jerusalem ID cards," he said.

"They are living miserable lives as result. They cannot even step outside their doors for fear of their safety."