The United Nations agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has urged Israel to stop the possible eviction of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem al-Quds, saying the expulsions constitute a “violation of international law.”
“This eviction violates international law and Israel’s obligation as an occupying power. For UNRWA, these Palestinian refugees are experiencing a second displacement in living memory,” UNRWA commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini said during a visit to the neighborhood on Wednesday.
The UNRWA chief said it was his job “to protect and assist Palestinian refugees.”
“I have made it our priority to help prevent another cycle of trauma and loss.”
Weeks of Israeli harassment of Palestinians in Jerusalem al-Quds and attempts to appropriate Palestinian lands in the neighborhood was followed by the Israeli bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip, which began on May 10 and lasted 11 days. Over 250 Palestinians were killed.
Amid the tensions in al-Quds, an Israeli high court on May 9 delayed the ruling on the expulsion of several Palestinian families.
“It is very difficult to explain how the lives of these eight families risk being turned upside down for the second time within nearly three generations of being Palestinian refugees,” said Lazzarini.
“I saw one home which Israeli settlers have already taken over half of the house. The house is actually divided in two – a Palestinian family and a settler family. It is surreal.”
UNRWA reiterated its call on Israeli authorities to “end this displacement” and “protect the rights and dignity” of Palestinians in the occupied territories, including in Sheikh Jarrah.
Meanwhile, Gwyn Lewis, director of UNRWA affairs in the occupied West Bank, said the Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah have the right to support from UNRWA.
“The families never, ever lost their Palestine refugee status,” Lewis said, adding, “They are recognized as Palestinian refugees, are registered with UNRWA as Palestine refugees, and have the right to receive support from UNRWA like other Palestine refugees.”