UN protests more East Jerusalem evictions

UN agencies in the occupied West Bank said April 22 that Israel last week destroyed 21 homes of Palestinian Bedouin refugees—leaving 54 people homeless, including 35 children. A joint statement from the refugee agency UNRWA and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs condemned the April 18 demolition of the structures at Khalayleh north of Jerusalem, along with the removal the same day of refugees from two houses in East Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighborhood. Ma'an News Agency reported that Jewish settlers moved into the homes the same day. A day later, Israeli forces demolished and confiscated emergency tents provided to the evicted Khalayleh families by humanitarian organizations, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the UN Relief and Works Agency said in a joint statement.

"The forced eviction of Palestine refugees and the demolition of Palestinian homes and other civilian structures in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is contrary to international law," UNRWA's West Bank director, Felipe Sánchez, said in the statement. "We urge the Israeli authorities to find an immediate solution to enable the Palestinian population of the occupied West Bank, to lead a normal life, in full realisation of their rights." (AFP, Ma'an News Agency, April 22)

The evictions come days after Israel's Housing Ministry published tenders for the construction of 827 new housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa.The new construction will significantly expand Har Homa to the south and east, bringing it closer to Palestinian towns Beit Sahour and Nuaman. Har Homa, first built in the 1990s, is the most recent large Israeli neighborhood to be built over the Green Line. (Ha'aretz, April 4)

An Israeli court meanwhile ordered the eviction of six Jewish families from a Palestinian-owned home in the Tel Rumeida district of Hebron. The six Jewish families must evacuate the property by May 15. The families have lived there since 2005, and say that the property was purchased from its Palestinian owner by the Jewish-owned Tal Lebniya construction company. The Jerusalem District Court found that the home is owned by Zachariah Bakri, who left the property in 2001 after the Israeli military restricted the movement of Palestinians in the area. Bakri has been fighting since 2009 to reassert his ownership rights. The court ruled that the sale documents presented to the court by the company were forgeries.

The ruling comes less than a month after Israeli settlers were evicted from a home near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron that they said they purchased legally. The eviction order issued by the Israeli military's Civil Administration said the settlers' presence in the home violated public order, and that the residents did not request or receive a required purchase permit from the Civil Administration. (JTA, April 22)

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