UNRWA says it's located most Palestinian refugees who fled Rimal camp in Latakia, Syria

Chris Gunness, UNRWA Spokesman based in the Agency’s Sheikh Jarrah office in Jerusalem, sent out a message Friday saying that “Many people around the world were shocked by the images of unarmed refugees being shot at as they fled from their homes, amid the firing on their refugee camp. But the good news is that our incredibly courageous local UNRWA staff have established a temporary office in Latakia, outside the refugee camp … [and] have located about 6,000 of the 7,500 refugees displaced by the fighting. UNRWA has been able to assist them with cash grants for food, medicine and accommodation. Many, particularly the children and women, are traumatized and in a poor condition … the refugees are too frightened to return to their homes there and are not returning. UNRWA has not had access — draw your own conclusions about what that means about the security situation there and the state of the camp”.

Where are these people staying? Elsewhere in Latakia, for the most part, Chris explained, either with relatives or friends. Apparently, Latakia’s Rimal camp for Palestinian refugees is still considered totally unsafe, and “some are sleeping in the rough”, he added.

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Israel gives UNRWA permission to have four "submachine" guns in Gaza

A chilling report appeared in the Guardian newspaper today, here.

Guardian Correspondent in Jerusalem Harriet Sherwood wrote: “Israeli authorities have approved the delivery of four submachine guns to the main UN agency in Gaza for the protection of its head, John Ging, following assassination attempts and death threats … The UN is thought to use machine guns to protect its personnel in highly volatile and dangerous places such as Somalia. There have been two attempts to assassinate Ging, an energetic and charismatic advocate for the rights of Palestinian refugees. In March 2007, masked gunman fired at least 14 bullets at Ging’s armoured car as it travelled through Gaza. A second attack a few months later left one Palestinian dead and several wounded”.

So now, UNRWA is going to shoot back?

And, if so, what are the possible consequences?

UNRWA — the “United Nations Relief and Works Agency” for Palestinian refugees — has had plenty of problems through the years. But, if it now starts to shoot at Palestinians, its situation in Gaza will become untenable.

What good are four “submachine” guns going to do, if there’s a real attack on the UNRWA Director of Operations, John Ging, who these weapons are reportedly meant to protect?

Maybe the UN should pull out of Gaza, instead of running around with a few powerful weapons.

If the UN begins shooting up the place, there’s no telling what will happen next.

Sherwood wrote that “Chris Gunness, UNRWA’s spokesman, said: ‘We don’t discuss security policy’.” In that case, I wonder where she got this story from? Israeli security services?

Sherwood added: “The weapons were received by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) last week after the necessary permits were issued, an Israeli spokesman said. UNRWA first requested permission to bring in four German-made Heckler & Koch submachine guns three years ago to supplement the handguns used by Ging’s close protection team, according to the spokesman. ‘We got a formal request five months ago, and they received the guns last week’, he added … Ging, a former officer in the Irish army, has headed UNRWA in Gaza since 2006”.

UNRWA asked “permission” to bring in submachine guns three years ago?

[That is, months after the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian Security forces in Gaza in mid-June 2007, and after the Israeli government decision on 19 September 2007 to declare Gaza “enemy territory” or a “hostile entity”, and after the Israeli military began at the end of October 2007 to “implement” the government decision by imposing racheted-up and unsupervised sanctions on 1.5 million people living in one of the most densely-populated places on earth? Then, the UN asked to bring in submachine guns?]

And, another formal request was made by UNRWA five months ago?

Then, Israeli authorities allowed the submachine guns to enter Gaza just last week?

Of course, UNRWA would never consider bringing the guns in through the Hamas-controlled tunnels…

But, why are “Israeli authorities” allowing four “submachine” guns into Gaza, now?

What is really going on here?

No. Something is not right. It would be better for UNRWA to just leave.

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Libyan-chartered ship docks in El-Arish

The New York Times is reporting from Cairo that the port director in El Arish says the Libyan-chartered Amalthea, docked at about 1 p.m today. and was expected to immediately begin unloading its cargo.

The NYTimes further reports, a propos continued speculation about some kind of “deal” or other: that “Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, son of Libyan leader. Muammar Qaddafi, said in an interview with Ash-Sharq al-Awsat “that the Israelis ‘agreed to let Libya spend $50 million’ through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [UNRWA]. The money, he said, would be used ‘to support the Palestinians and for reconstruction, including allowing construction materials and prefabricated homes’ … A spokesman for the United Nations agency did not immediately comment”. This report is posted here.

This is all a bit mysterious, because Libya was always free to contribute as much as it liked to UNRWA, for the Palestinians, whenever it liked (though it probably did not do so, previously, up until now…)

Juan Cole has also posted on his blog, Informed Comment, an item reporting that “al-Quds al-Arabi reports in Arabic that the Qadhafi Foundation is maintaining that it extracted several concessions from Israel in return for diverting to the Egyptian port, including a pledge that travel abroad for treatment of ill Palestinians in Gaza would be expedited and reconstruction projects would be allowed to go forward (one in 8 Palestinians in Gaza had their homes destroyed in the 2008-2009 Israeli assault on the Strip.)”… This, published here, is also a bit mysterious…

Larry Derfner wrote today in his column for the Jerusalem Post that “Given the way Israel behaves now, it’s pretty sad to remember that it was envisioned as a country where the Jews ran their own national affairs – but nobody else’s. Now it’s not enough for Israel to have its own coast, its own territorial waters, its own airspace – no, we’ve got to control Gaza’s coast, Gaza’s territorial waters, Gaza’s airspace, too. The Gaza Strip is part of our sphere of influence. Let any Turkish ship, Libyan ship or any other ship we don’t like try to sail into Gaza, and they’ll get a taste of gunboat diplomacy, Israeli-style” …

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Round-up

Monday 21 June 2010

Ram Cohen, principal of the Aleph High School in Tel Aviv, was summoned to appear before the Knesset Education Committee and the Minister of Education, Mr. Gideon Saar, today, as Cohen explained in an article published in YNet, “following my unequivocal words to my students, condemning the 43 year-old occupation and rule over the life of the Palestinian people …

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Can Turkish involvement help Free Gaza – Freedom Flotilla challenge Israel's naval blockade of Gaza?

A “Freedom Flotilla” is planning to sail for Gaza by the end of the month.

It will be the ninth expedition to try to reach Gaza by sea. According to the Free Gaza movement, this time it will be bigger and better than ever.

This time, there will be Turkish involvement.

This raises the stakes.

The Free Gaza movement is calling it “the biggest internationally coordinated effort to directly challenge Israeli’s ongoing occupation, aggression, and violence against the Palestinian people”.

The organizers apparently believe that, even if they don’t succeed in reaching their destination in Gaza, the publicity value alone, highlighting the blockade of Gaza, sufficiently justifies this attempt.

The last attempt to reach Gaza by sea was in June 2009 — then, Free Gaza ships were intercepted by the Israeli Navy off Gaza, and forced to proceed to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, where the cargo was impounded (some of it was later transferred by land to Israeli crossings and sent into Gaza). The activists aboard were jailed before deportation.

The Government of Bahrain, which does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, sent a delegation to receive its arrested activists.

Now, a Turkish relief organization, IHH (Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, or Insani Yardim Vakfi), is making major preparations to participate in the coming “Freedom Flotilla”. The aim is to reach Gaza’s fishermens’ wharf by late May.

According to the organizers’ plans, the Freedom Flotilla will include as many as 9 boats, including several cargo ships, and perhaps five passenger ships with up to 600 high-profile international personalities, activists, and journalists aboard.

Some of the ships will reportedly be flying the Turkish flag.

This means that any Israeli attack on those ships would be considered tantamount to an attack upon Turkey.

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It's Friday – protests in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem + West Bank

Today is Friday. Palestinian television will normally be show the Friday prayers from Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, located in the Old City of East Jerusalem, but this Friday Palestinian TV will broadcast live from Burrin, a village in the northern West Bank, near Nablus, where a mosque under construction, the Suliman al-Pharisee Mosque, was served a demolition order, just five days ago — last Sunday, the day on which the Palestinian presidential and legislative elections were supposed to have been held, before they were postponed.  The mosque has been entirely built (on Burrin land classified as Arab B), and it’s all finished, except for the minaret…

And, at 3:00 in the afternoon, as they have for nearly four months, a new and growing coalition of Israeli anti-occupation activists will meet to demonstrate their opposition to Jewish settlers replacing Palestinian families in East Jerusalem homes built for them by the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, in Sheikh Jarrah, in the early 1950s under the Jordanian administration. The police have refused to give the activists a permit. But a judge has ruled on Thursday that no permit is needed, as long as the activists don’t block the streets, or make political speeches.

UPDATE: Here is a photo just posted by Didi Remez on Facebook, showing the Israeli author David Grossman – in center of photo below – attending this week’s protest at Sheikh Jarrah just before 3:00pm – (photo apparently taken by Itamar Broderson). Grossman is one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists, and is also a supporter of the Geneva Initiative between Palestinian and Israeli “civil society”, and bereaved father of an IDF soldier who was killed just hours before the end of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon.

David Grossman at Sheikh Jarrah just before 3pm this Friday 29 Jan 2010 - via Didi Remez

UPDATE: Bernard Avishai reported later on his blog (here) that Dr. Ron Pundak of the Peres Peace Center, and another supporter of the Geneva Initiative, was also present.

UPDATE: IPCRI’s co-director Gershon Baskin reported via Facebook before sunset that the Sheikh Jarrah demonstration is over — “and no one was arrested this week”.

HOWEVER, in the West Bank, it was different. The IDF spokespersons unit reported via Twitter that:
– “120 rioters, hurling rocks @ violent protest @ Bi’lin, security forces responding w riot dispersal mean”
– “100 rioters hurling rocks @ violent protest @Nil’in, security forces responding w riot dispersal means”
– “100 rioters hurling rocks @ violent protest @ Dir Hidhan N of Ramallah, security forces responding w riot dispersal means”

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Israeli police defy judicial opinion, vow to break up Israeli anti-occupation demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah

Last Friday afternoon, Israeli police arrested 17 Israeli anti-occupation demonstrators who had crossed the Green Line and assembled in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where over the last year three families have been thrown out of homes built for them in the early 1950s by the the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, on land allocated by the Jordanian authorities who administered the land following the 1948 war that surrounded the creation of the State of Israel.

Jewish (they may not all be Israeli citizens) settlers immediately moved into those three homes, guarded by their own private security organization — and by the Israeli national police and Border Police. The situation in this area is now very tense, but violence has been astonishingly limited.

There have been some verbal confrontations, but the two sides generally make enormous efforts to ignore each other’s presence.

There seems to be no actual threat to the Jewish settlers, other than legal challenges by the Palestinians, and now the protests organized by a new coalition of Israeli activists.

Israeli anti-occupation demonstrators have begun holding Friday afternoon protests there, on a weekly basis over the past several months, in support of the threatened Palestinian families. Last Friday’s arrests may have marked a turning point.

Here is a photo of Didi Remez (from his Facebook site) at the 15 January protest demonstration organized by Israeli anti-occupation activists in solidarity with threatened Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah.  In this now-iconic image, Didi Remez is objecting to the arrests made by the Israeli police, and telling them to “Arrest me, too!”.   The police complied –  he was arrested.

Didi Remez protesting to Israeli police - Arrest me too - in Sheikh Jarrah demonstration on 15 January 2010

After all the commotion, a bigger demonstration is expected today.

UPDATE: Here is a photo of the start of today’s demonstration just tweeted by CNN’s Kevin Flower
KevinFlower of CNN photo of Israeli demonstration 22 January 2010

After last Friday’s arrests, in which the head of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Hagai Elad, was among those taken into custody when he simply approached police to attempt to mediate, the demonstrators spent over 36 hours in jail during the Israeli weekend and the Jewish sabbath, before an Israeli judge ruled that the arrests were not warranted.

This Friday demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah has now become the talk of the town — and of elsewhere in the region.

One of the organizers of the weekly Friday Israeli anti-occupation demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah, Didi Remez, has posted a notice about today’s demonstration, saying that “Police have refused to grant license for [this] Friday procession; refusing to provide reasons. The vigil, unequivocally ruled legal and not requiring licence by Jerusalem Justice of the Peace, will take place at 15:00, as usual. Police, however, have warned organizers that, ruling or no ruling, they will forcibly break up the demonstration”.

Didi Remez was one of those arrested last Friday.  He was also reportedly one of the first of some 20 demonstrators arrested today.

Another photo of the Didi Remez at the Friday 15 January 2010 demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem.

Didi Remez protesting to Israeli police - Arrest me too - in Sheikh Jarrah demonstration on 15 January 2010

UPDATE: True to their word, the Israeli police broke up the demonstration.  They arrested some 20 Israeli demonstrators, including veteran Israeli politician Yossi Sarid, who told the Ynet website that the arrests were “arbitrary and unruly”. Sarid also said: “I have been following the developments here for the past few months and I have read about what the police did over the past week. I became nauseous and wanted to vomit.”  YNet reported that former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg and Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh also participated in the demonstration, and that protesters “waved signs reading, ‘Free Sheikh Jarrah’ and chanted, ‘Cowardly settlers, leave the homes at once’.  The YNet story can be read in full here.

Maan photo of police arresting demonstrators in Sheikh Jarrah on 22 Jan 2010

UPDATE: Ben Lynfield has just reported in The Scotsman that “Yehuda Shaul, an activist in the former soldiers’ group Breaking the Silence was dragged away after he led the crowd in a chant of ‘democracy is not built by evicting people from their houses’.” Ben’s article can be read in full here.

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Remains of Alec Collett found in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

This is an ugly and traumatic story.

Alec Collett, a former colleague accredited as a journalist at UNHQ/NY in the early to mid-1980s, was one of those internationals kidnapped during the long Lebanese civil war.  Alec was taken from a car near Beirut airport in March  1985, while on a temporary assignment for UNRWA in Lebanon.  The car’s driver was also seized, but later released

After the U.S. attack on Libya in the spring of 1986, there were reports that those holding Alec had executed him in retaliation. A video was released, showing his body hanging from the limb of a leafy tree.

But, for unclear reasons, the UN did not want to acknowledge Alec’s execution. The UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, expressed anger but offered no explanation when asked directly by this journalist — at the time, the President of the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA) why the UN was not accepting the reports of Alec’s death.  UNCA issued a statement condemning the reported execution, and asking for a prompt return of the body, to help ease the anguish of Alec’s family.

Though there was no apparent reason to disbelieve the claims about the execution, nothing was entirely sure about Alec’s fate until this week, when British DNA tests reportedly conducted in London confirmed that a body unearthed recently in the Bekaa Valley by a British forensics team was, indeed, that of Alec Collett.

Photo from Daily Mail - Officials inspect the place where the remains of Alec Collett were found

[Months before the execution, as the BBC reported in a profile published on their website, “the United Nations Correspondents’ Association … made him [Alec Collett] their honorary president, a title he has retained ever since”… The BBC report, posted here, is wrong in a couple of respects, including these: (1) the decision to name Alec as “honorary president” of UNCA was taken at the end of 1985, and not in 1986; UNCA is not, as the BBC wrote, an “organisation for journalists based around the world” — it is an organization for journalists accredited to UNHQ in New York. And, this decision, taken at the urging of some colleagues, was not popular with all of the journalists. Some, who had not hesitated to use his captivity for their own political purposes in the UNCA elections held at the end of 1985, were nevertheless opposed to making Alec Collett “honorary president” on the grounds that (as they argued) he had been on a temporary assignment to UNRWA, and not working strictly as a journalist, at the time he was kidnapped …]

The Times of London reported on 19 November that “Seven British police officers and two forensic archaeologists are excavating near the village of Aitta al-Fuqar in the Bekaa Valley. It is the site of a base belonging to Fatah — the Revolutionary Council. The radical and violent Palestinian group was led by Sabri al-Banna, better known as Abu Nidal.  The team found two bodies, one of them an unidentified man who was first found during an earlier attempt to find Mr Collett 11 years ago. It was reinterred by Lebanese authorities. The second body is undergoing DNA tests to discover if it is Mr Collett.  Lebanese troops have sealed off the site to reporters and onlookers”.  This report can be found here

A second report by the Times of London, published on 24 November, said that “The UN confirmed yesterday that remains unearthed by British investigators in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley are those of Alec Collett, a British journalist kidnapped in 1985 and killed a year later. A spokesman said that Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, while saddened by the news, ‘hopes the actions taken to find his remains can provide a measure of comfort to his loved ones’. The remains were identified with the help of DNA tests conducted in London by the Metropolitan Police. Collett, who was 64 when he was abducted, was on assignment with the UN reporting on Palestinian refugees in April 1985. He was kidnapped by Fatah Revolutionary Council, a radical Palestinian group headed by Abu Nidal. Collett is survived by his wife, Elaine, who also worked for the UN and lives in New York. Last week’s search was the fourth attempt in 11 years to recover his remains. The hunt had been narrowed to an isolated military base, once run by Abu Nidal militants, between the village of Aitta al-Fukhar and the Syrian border. The camp consists of a handful of derelict single-storey concrete buildings scattered on the slopes of a steep rocky valley. The walls of one abandoned building were daubed with sketches of the huge wooden water wheels in the Syrian city of Hama, and of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and his father Hafez al-Assad. The camp housed a small detachment of Syrian troops until 2005. One of the buildings was half-buried beneath bulldozed earth and rock for protection against attack, and it was here that Mr Collett spent his last weeks in captivity. The cell block consisted of three small rooms and a simple latrine. The doors and any furniture and fittings inside the cramped building long ago disappeared and today it appears to be a shelter for goats that scramble over the surrounding slopes. Mr Collett’ fate was sealed after US aircraft bombed Tripoli, in Libya on April 15, 1986. In retaliation, eight days later, the Libyan-backed militants took Mr Collett from his bleak cell and hanged him, then shot him in the back of the head — according to a Palestinian eyewitness whose testimony in 2005 provided additional confirmation that the British journalist had been buried on the site. A team from the Metropolitan police counterterrorist department and two forensic archaeologists began excavating a section of the camp on November 14. A digger scraped away the surface layer of stony soil, then investigators worked the ground by hand. Small red flags marked the spot of each dig. The operation was conducted amid tight security, with Lebanese troops keeping reporters and onlookers away, but The Times was able to gain access to the site. ‘We looked for signs of disturbance in the soil and focussed on those areas’, said one of the investigators. Two bodies were discovered. One of them was that of a suspected Palestinian militant whose remains were first uncovered during an earlier search for Mr Collett’s body in 1998, and subsequently re-interred by Lebanese authorities. The second body was that of Mr Collett, the bullet hole in the skull convincing the investigators that they had found their man pending the final result of the DNA tests”. This Times of London report is posted here

While the Times of London report, above, said that “Last week’s search was the fourth attempt in 11 years to recover his remains”, a BBC report here said that the UN “tried three times between 1995 and 2000 to find his body and there have been numerous false alarms”.

Two UN officials were trying to get Alec Collett’s release much earlier — in the months immediately after his abduction, and after the reports of the execution: Perez de Cuellar’s aide Gianni Picco, who got involved in some of the hostage negotiations as part of larger regional efforts, and the Lebanese-Palestinian information official, Samir Sanbar. They operated, apparently, on different tracks. I was also told, at the time, that the high-ranking British UN official Brian Urquhart, was also involved on another separate track. And, UNCA made several quiet attempts, at the time, to contact various personalities in Lebanon to seek their help, without result…

My friend and mentor Promeneur, who did not speak to me for more than a year because of the UNCA election and its results, wrote me this week from London and said: “They did the DNA and yes it’s Alec. Any suggestion how I might contact Elaine? She with the UN still I wonder? Gosh their son will be in his mid-30s … and Alec he would now be 87 I think I got that right, double-gosh … Turns out it was … a retaliatory gesture after Reagan bombed Tripoli (remember how it was timed to run live on the 10 o’clock news) … otherwise they figure he was about to be released. All those years I’d imagined it must have been a Lebanese group, reasoning that Alec’s strong PLO sympathies must have tripped him up. Then I reasoned that he wouldn’t have lasted long without his medication – he had diabetes and other stuff, but no seems they did hang him. A guy doing life in the US has given an eye-witness account. The assignment had been a gift from UNRWA who knew how broke he was – it was going to clear his credit card debts etc.”…

UNRWA says evicted Hanoun and Ghawi families should be reinstated in their homes

It might have taken a couple of days to get the statement vetted, cleared, and approved, but UNRWA today issued a statement calling on Israeli authorities “to refrain” from any further house evictions in East Jerusalem.

The statement, issued by UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness, informs us that “UNRWA remains concerned about the other refugee families in the area and the possibility of more evictions which will cause further unacceptable humanitarian suffering. We will continue monitor this situation closely The families, evicted in the early hours of Sunday from the homes where they have lived for more than half a century, continue to suffer distress and shock. The children are particularly traumatised. The lasting humanitarian impact on the 53 people directly affected including 20 minors cannot be over-estimated. Seeing settlers being escorted into the houses in which some family members were born, was particularly distressing for these refugees.

Not only were they surrounded by Israeli police and security personnel at dawn, their homes broken into and their families thrown onto the streets, they have had to endure the indignity and humiliation of their personal effects being loaded onto trucks and dumped in scrub land at the edge of Jerusalem’s Route One. UNRWA has assisted the families in recovering their belongings and will store them until the issue is resolved.

The UNRWA statement added that “We are raising these cases with the Israeli authorities as a matter of urgency. The evictions violate the rights of the refugees and international law. We call on the Israeli authorities to refrain from taking any further measures to evict other members of the Palestine refugee community in Sheikh Jarrah and to reinstate the evicted families as the United Nations Special Co-ordinator has demanded”.

The homes that the Hanoun and Ghawi families were removed from by force on Sunday were built for them by UNRWA in the 1950s, on land authorized by the Jordanian Government which was then administering East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the aftermath of the war surrounding the creation of the State of Israel in May 1948. Jordan was expelled from East Jerusalem and the West Bank by conquering Israeli forces in the June 1967 war.

Decades later, Jewish settler organizations filed claim to a number of properties in East Jerusalem (and probably elsewhere) on the grounds that they had been owned by Jews from the late 1850s, under purchases purportedly authorized by the Ottoman Empire, but who fled either in intercommunal conflicts in Palestine during the British Mandate period between the First and Second World Wars, or in the 1948 war. The Turkish government has recently — following Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza — assisted lawyers for a number of East Jerusaleem Palestinian families to search the Ottoman archives for records of Jewish ownership, and a report document was submitted to the Israeli Supreme Court saying that no such ownership records could be found in the Ottoman archives. However, the Israeli Supreme Court refused to accept this report. Earlier, a Palestinian filed claims that he owned the land on which some of the houses were built, but the Israeli Court has rejected his claim as well. The Jordanian Government has not been very forthcoming, according to Palestinian sources, in explaining the process and the legal basis for its designation of those lands to UNRWA for the construction of housing for Palestinian refugees who lost their own original homes in the 1948 war.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, meanwhile, has strengthened her initial weary oh-there-they-go-again response of Monday (the first working day in Washington after the evictions of the Hanoun and Ghawi families in the Sheikh Jarrah area of East Jerusalem during the early hours of Sunday), and has since said that these evictions are both “provocative” and “unacceptable”.

The Israeli Ambassador to Washington was reportedly called into the State Department to hear the Secretary’s complaint.

UPDATE: As reported earlier here, Maher Hanoun said again today that his furniture had been dumped in a lot which belonged to his Aunt, and which was located near the British Consulate in Sheikh Jarrah. The Israelis demanded legal proof that his aunt owned the land, and written confirmation of her willingness to have the furniture put there. But, he said, his furniture was not important. According to Maher Hanoun, it was the furniture of the Ghawi family that was dumped on the road near UNRWA, [After all, the family are UNRWA-registered refugees!] The UNRWA statement saying that the family possessions were “dumped in scrub land at the edge of Jerusalem’s Route One. UNRWA has assisted the families in recovering their belongings and will store them until the issue is resolved”.

UPDATE TWO. The Hanoun family was seated on the sidewalk today, in the shade of an olive tree, across the street from the police barricades that stood in front of their former home, which is now occupied by Jewish settlers. The mattresses they sleep on were piled up on the side of the sidewalk. A plastic bag hung from the tree, with plastic cups and other utensils inside that they use for eating and drinking. Two boys were playing a board game. They have been living that way for the past six days, since last Sunday morning. Their household possessions are still in an otherwise-empty lot near the British Consulate. Maher Hanoun said. The Ghawi family are sleeping outside their former home, too, he said, across the street and down the hill.

Maher Hanoun in East Jerusalem: "We do not want any tent – we want our home"

In the early morning hours on Sunday, Israeli Border Police broke into the homes of the Hanoun and Ghawi families in Sheikh Jarrah, north of the Old City but still part of downtown East Jerusalem, and forcibly expelled at gunpoint three families from one building (only one of them was under court expulsion order) and four from another (there, only one was under court expulsion order).

Over 50 Palestinian refugees (from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war) immediately became homeless, with nowhere to go. No provisions were made to care for their household possessions or to shelter them by the Israeli authorities who have administered the area since their conquest in the June 1967 war, and who had ordered the expulsions to be carried out.

Sunday night, the Hanoun and Ghawi families were out on the streets. “The Red Cross came and offered us tents”, said Maher Hanoun, “But we do not want any tent. We do not want rations of rice and sugar. We want to return to our home”.

Just after the eviction operation, settlers moved in, protected by the Israeli Border Police.

Israeli settlers move into Hanoun home in Sheikh Jarrah - 2 August 2009

Continue reading “Maher Hanoun in East Jerusalem: "We do not want any tent – we want our home"”