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UN: Evicting Arab Squatters 'Violates Geneva Convention'

A senior UN official accused Israel of violating the Geneva Convention by evicting Arab squatters from buildings they didn't own
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 4/19/2012, 3:24 PM

Jerusalem home
Jerusalem home
Aryeh King

A senior UN official on Wednesday condemned Israel's eviction of Arab squatters from two houses in eastern Jerusalem.

"Evictions of Palestinians from their homes and properties in occupied territory contravene international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and should cease," UN humanitarian coordinator Maxwell Gaylard said.

Israel liberated Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem from 19 years of Jordanian occupation in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel subsequently annexed Jerusalem and declared the city to be its "eternal and indivisible" capital.

The formal position of the United Nations is that Israel is an ‘occupying power’ in the liberated areas, while Israel defines easter Jerusalem as a part of Israel proper, and Judea and Samaria as ‘disputed territories' - which does not preclude development and settlement.

The matter has never been decided by a competent international court.

Gaylard's remarks came after Israel Police on Wednesday evicted two Arab families who were illegally occupying two homes that legally belonged to Jews in eastern Jerusalem.

The squatters had chosen to remain despite having been served with a court order directing them to move.

"Jews own the buildings according to all legal opinions," Jerusalem activist Aryeh King said. “The land was purchased from Arabs by legal means, and was registered under the name of the Jewish owners.”

A court had ruled that the Arab family living in the buildings had no right to the property, he continued. Despite the verdict, the Jewish owners offered the Arabs hundreds of thousands of shekels to leave, “going beyond the letter of the law,” King said. The Arabs refused the offer.

More evictions of Arab squatters in eastern Jerusalem are expected in the coming months as senior officials respond to sharp criticism that the Israel Police and IDF have systemically refused to enforce land-use and ownership laws in Arab neighborhoods.

Earlier this year, the State Prosecutor's office formed a panel to review discrepancies in policy and enforcement in eastern Jerusalem, and to reformulate policy more clearly to ensure proper enforcement.