UNRWA condemns 'appalling' eviction of Shamasna family in East Jerusalem

12:00 Sep 6 2017 Sheikh Jarrah

Picture from eviction of Shamasna family in Sheikh Jarrah on Tuesday (MaanImages). Published by Maan News

Ayoub Shamasna (MaanImages). Published by Maan News

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) released a statement on Wednesday condemning the eviction of the Shamasna family from their home of 53 years in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Tuesday.

Director of UNRWA Scott Anderson, who visited the family on Wednesday, said in the statement that he was “appalled at the resumption of forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and particularly worried about the humanitarian impact on this refugee family.”

The Shamasna family was the latest Palestinian family to be evicted from the neighborhood since 2009 under an Israeli law that allows Jewish Israelis to claim ownership over properties that had once been owned by Jews before 1948, when thousands fled East Jerusalem during the Arab-Israeli war.

When Jordan controlled the territory post-1948, many of these abandoned properties were repurposed to house hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees following the creation of the state of Israel. After 1967, when Israel took control over East Jerusalem, these properties were shifted under the management of Israeli authorities.

Sheikh Jarrah has become a central target for Jewish ownership claims, as Jewish Israelis believe the neighborhood was once the site of a 19th century Jewish community.

In 2009, the Um Kamel al-Kurd, Ghawi, and Hanoun families were completely evicted from their homes, while Israeli settlers partially took over the al-Kurd family home, who still live side-by-side years later. More than 60 Palestinians were displaced during the wave of evictions in 2009.

These evicted refugee families had their homes built for them by the United Nations in the 1950s. However, since the land itself in Sheikh Jarrah was the alleged site of an old Jewish community, Jewish Israelis are still able to make claims on the homes.

On Sunday, six more Palestinian families were handed eviction notices, ordering them to leave their homes within 30 days owing to Israeli settler claims on their properties.

Anderson emphasized that the UNRWA Crisis Intervention Unit has continued to remain with the Shamasna family on the ground to provide immediate assistance. The statement highlighted that a program was funded by the European Union in order for UNRWA to provide emergency assistance to the displaced family, including rental and cash assistance and specialized health services, such as psycho-social support.

“Palestine refugees, who have already endured multiple episodes of displacement, should not be subjected to forced evictions,” Anderson said.

UNRWA noted that eight Palestinians, including two minors and two elderly individuals -- including 83-year-old homeowner Ayoub Shamasneh, who is wheelchair bound -- were displaced in the eviction.

“This is yet another example of the pressures that so many Palestinian residents face in East Jerusalem. In addition to the suffering inflicted on the evicted family, the immediate handover of the property to Israeli settlers is likely to be followed by further restrictions on those Palestinians living nearby,” Anderson added.

According to UN documentation, 180 Palestinian families -- comprising of 818 individuals, 372 of whom are children -- are at risk of forcible displacement owing to settler-driven evictions. UNRWA noted that in Sheikh Jarrah, 60 percent of those at risk of displacement are Palestinian refugees.

“Under international law, the transfer and deportations of protected persons from occupied territory is illegal. As the Occupying Power in East Jerusalem, Israel must act to prevent changing the status and demographic composition of the occupied territory, and ensure the welfare of the protected Palestinian population in East Jerusalem,” UNRWA added.

Meanwhile, the French government also condemned the eviction of the Shamasna family on Tuesday, reiterating the government’s stance that all Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, and called upon Israeli authorities to halt such activities.

Israeli rights group Ir Amim has noted that Israeli settler plans have focused on taking control of the entire neighborhood and then demolishing it to establish a massive Jewish settlement, called Shimon HaTzadik -- named after the tomb of the biblical figure Simeon the Just, which is believed by Jews to be located in the neighborhood.
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