UNRWA Visit to Evicted Family in East Jerusalem

06 September 2017

The Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, Scott Anderson, has paid a visit to the Shamasneh family, a Palestine refugee family residing in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, who had just been evicted from their home following an eight-year legal battle.

Expressing UNRWA’s support Anderson said “I am appalled at the resumption of forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and particularly worried about the humanitarian impact on this refugee family. I have expressed UNRWA’s solidarity with them and our commitment to address their immediate needs. We will also continue to advocate for the rights of Palestine refugees to be protected, and obligations under international law respected. The UNRWA Crisis Intervention Unit has been on-site providing immediate assistance to the family at this difficult time. Palestine refugees, who have already endured multiple episodes of displacement, should not be subjected to forced evictions”.

On 5th September at 5.15am the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) surrounded the Shamasneh house. At around 6 am, the family members were forcibly evicted and their personal effects loaded onto a truck.  An 83-year-old wheelchair-bound man was physically lifted out of the house. Shortly after the eviction, settlers were escorted by the ISF into the building, in which the Shamasneh family has been living for more than fifty years. As a result, eight Palestinians from three generations of the family, including two minors and two elderly persons, were displaced. The eviction took place while the latest appeal submitted by the family was pending before the District Court.

“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”, said Anderson.

Under an emergency programme funded by the European Union, through the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), UNRWA will provide emergency assistance to the family, including cash assistance and referrals to the necessary specialized services, such as psycho-social support.  
According to a recent mapping exercise conducted by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 180 Palestinian households in East Jerusalem have eviction cases filed against them.  In Sheikh Jarrah alone, over 60 per cent of those at risk are registered Palestine refugees. One factor driving this is the expansion of new settlements in Sheikh Jarrah. Over the past decade, over 60 Palestinians have lost their homes as a result of forced evictions in the neighbourhood.

Under international law, the transfer and deportations of protected persons from occupied territory are 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.

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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