GENEVA: The United Nations urged Israel on Friday to call off any forced evictions in Israeli-annexed east al-Quds, 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 al-Quds overnight in clashes with police over an eviction threat against four Palestinian families.
The second straight night of rioting in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood was fuelled by a years-long land dispute between Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlers in the strategic district near Jerusalem’s Old City.
Tensions have been fuelled by a long-running legal case over the homes of four Palestinian families on land claimed by Jews, which is due to go before the Supreme Court on Monday. "We wish to emphasise that east al-Quds 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. The latest clashes followed violence on Wednesday night, when 22 Palestinians were wounded, according to the Red Crescent. Police said they had made 11 arrests.