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U.N. warns of Jerusalem housing crisis

  • Story Highlights
  • Thousands of Palestinians risk having their homes destroyed, U.N. warns
  • Most of them are in homes built without permits from Israeli officials
  • Jerusalem admits housing crisis adds it effects all groups not just Palestinians
  • U.S. urges Israel to stop demolitions
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(CNN) -- Thousands of Palestinians are facing a housing crisis because of inadequate urban planning by Israeli officials who run the east Jerusalem region, a U.N. report shows.

Twenty-eight percent of Palestinian homes in the area have been built without permits, which makes them targets for demolition by Israeli authorities, according to the study by the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The report, which highlights a growing international concern, said that more than a quarter of the 225,000 Palestinians in east Jerusalem risk losing their homes.

A majority of the residents built their homes after being denied permits, the U.N. said, adding that only 13 percent of annexed East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction.

The municipality of Jerusalem disputed the numbers in a news statement but acknowledged that there is a planning crisis all over the city.

It "is not just in eastern Jerusalem but throughout all of Jerusalem that affects Jews, Christians and Muslims alike," the statement said. "This is a report about the past, while Mayor Nir Barkat is committed to the future and providing a better quality of life for all residents of Jerusalem."

East Jerusalem was controlled by Jordan until 1967 when it was annexed by Israel, which then claimed sovereignty over the city. This annexation is not recognized by the international community.

Recent incidents indicate that the Jerusalem municipality will retain and possibly intensify its pace and policy on demolitions, which are conducted by the Israel Defense Forces, the study states.

But Jerusalem officials said that plans are under way to implement change.

"Upon entering office, Mayor Barkat expedited the planning process and for the first time in 50 years, will present a master plan for the city in the coming weeks for public review," the statement said.

The U.N. urged Israeli authorities to halt demolitions and ensure effective urban planning as part of its obligations as the occupying power.

It also called on Israel to support organizations that work to improve the lives of displaced families.

Israeli troops and Palestinian militants in Gaza launched strikes overnight, but no casualties were reported.

The Israel Defense Forces and Hamas security reported two Israeli airstrikes targeting weapons smuggling tunnels in Rafah, the town in Gaza near Egypt. And, Palestinian militants in Gaza shot a Qassam rocket into Israel that landed in an open space, the IDF said.

The Qassam was launched Thursday night, the IDF said. The Israeli airstrikes occurred on Friday morning.

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