UN demands Israel stops East Jerusalem evictions, cautions over possible 'war crimes'

UN demands Israel stops East Jerusalem evictions, cautions over possible 'war crimes'
The UN warning over possible war crimes comes amid continued protests in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
2 min read
The UN spokesman called for an end to forced East Jerusalem evictions [NurPhoto/Getty]
The United Nations urged Israel on Friday to call off any forced evictions in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, warning that its actions could amount to "war crimes".

"We call on Israel to immediately call off all forced evictions," UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

His comment came after 15 Palestinians were arrested in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem overnight during protests over an eviction threat against four Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

Arabi21 was told by what it describes as "local sources" that Israeli authorities used violence against demonstrators.

Read more: Israeli panic over ICC war crimes probe shows Palestinians the way forward

The long-running legal case about the homes of four Palestinian families on land claimed by Jews is due to go before the Supreme Court on Monday.

"We wish to emphasise that East Jerusalem remains part of the occupied Palestinian territory, in which international humanitarian law applies," Colville said.

"The occupying power... cannot confiscate private property in occupied territory," he said, adding that transferring civilian populations into occupied territory was illegal under international law and "may amount to war crimes." 

Colville demanded that Israel halt actions that "further contribute to a coercive environment or leads to a risk of forcible transfer."

"We further call on Israel to respect freedom of expression on assembly, including with those who are protesting against the evictions, and to exercise maximum restraint in the use of force," he said.

Court battle

Earlier this year, a Jerusalem district court ruled the homes legally belonged to the Jewish families, citing purchases made when the whole of historic Palestine, including what is now Israel, was under British rule.

The Jewish plaintiffs claimed their families lost the land during the war that accompanied Israel's creation in 1948, a conflict that also saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced from their homes. 

Israeli law allows Jews who can prove pre-1948 title to recover their properties.

It does not afford the same right to Palestinians.

Colville stressed that "Israel cannot impose its own set of laws in occupied territory, including East Jerusalem."

The Sheikh Jarrah families have provided evidence that their homes were acquired from Jordanian authorities, who controlled east Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967. 

Amman has intervened in the case, providing documents to support the Palestinian claims.

Israel seized east Jerusalem in 1967 and later illegally annexed it, in a move not recognised by most of the international community.

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