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2 August - On the “sad occasion” of the one-year anniversary of evictions of Palestinian refugees from their homes in East Jerusalem today, a senior United Nations official called on Israeli authorities to allow families to return to their homes and to protect the rights of Palestinians.

One year ago today, 11 Palestinian families were forcibly removed from the Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, where they had lived for more than half a century, by Israeli security forces, with Israeli settlers moving into their homes.

Filippo Grandi, Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said that he met with representatives of those families “affected by what was – and continues to be – an example of the grave invasion of fundamental rights that occurs all too frequently in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

The representatives told Mr. Grandi of the emotional distress and nearly irreversible damage to their livelihoods caused by the evictions, and the UN official expressed UNRWA's solidarity for their plight and pledged to continue helping to address the issue.

The agency said at the time that the evicted families' belongings were loaded on to trucks and dumped at the edge of a busy Jerusalem road.

“It is a matter of deep concern that Palestinians, who have already endured extreme suffering of various kinds, including multiple episodes of large-scale displacement, should remain subject to the humiliation of the kind inflicted by forced evictions and home demolitions,” the official said today.

Mr. Grandi also repeated his call on Israel to defend, protect and promote the rights and freedoms of Palestinians in line with the country's obligations under international law, as well as noting the international community's responsibilities to ensure that Israel meets its obligations.

The treatment of the 11 families forced to leave Sheikh Jarrah is a reflection of the experience of Palestinians and Palestinian refugees in other parts of occupied East Jerusalem, including Silwan, Beit Hanina and the Old City, where many are constantly afraid of demolitions and evictions.

Last week, armed Israeli settlers forcibly took over a building in the Old City while its Palestinian residents were attending a wedding.

The UNRWA chief today condemned the move, echoing the statement issued by Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process last week which called for the re-instatement of the Palestinian residents in the building, which they have been calling home for decades.

UNRWA has already provided emergency help, including cash assistance, to these families in a programme funded by the European Community Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO).

The agency has also helped the families of Sheikh Jarrah, and Mr. Grandi added that UNRWA will continue to support these displaced families and “advocate for their protection under international law.”