Development Agencies to Israel: Transfer Violates International Law

The Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), a coalition consisting of more than 80 international organizations working in the occupied Palestinian territory, has said that the transfer of a population, whether by force or not, violates international law, including the international humanitarian law.

AIDA’s remark was in reaction to Israeli government plans to evict the Palestinian Sabbagh family from its home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem in order to turn it over to Jewish settlers who claim ownership of the Sabbagh home.

Demonstrators march in occupied East Jerusalem to protest the eviction of the Palestinian Sabbagh family from its home in Sheikh Jarrah.

Demonstrators march in occupied East Jerusalem to protest the eviction of the Palestinian Sabbagh family from its home in Sheikh Jarrah. (Photo:

While expressing “its grave concern over the imminent risk of forcible transfer of a Palestinian family in Sheikh Jarrah,” AIDA called on Israel “to immediately halt this and other eviction efforts in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

The Sabbagh family are Palestinian refugees originally from Jaffa, who resettled in Sheikh Jarrah with the support of the United Nations and the Jordanian government after fleeing their home in 1948.  The family has lived in their Sheikh Jarrah home for more than 60 years. Jewish groups claimed they own the property since before 1948, when Israel was created, and therefore were able to win an Israeli court order returning their property to them.

“While Jewish Israelis are allowed to reclaim their property, the Sabbagh family has no reciprocal right to reclaim the property they lost in Jaffa during the 1948 war,” said AIDA.

The Sabbagh family is one of at least 180 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem threatened with eviction by Israeli authorities. On February 17, Israeli forces and police evicted the Abu Assab family from their home in the Old City of Jerusalem, where they had lived since 1952. This followed an Israel Supreme Court ruling that the home was built on land allegedly belonging to Israeli settlers.

“Efforts to displace the Sabbagh family come in the context of Israel’s unlawful annexation of occupied East Jerusalem and internationally condemned practices that include the forcible transfer of Palestinian families and settlement expansion throughout the occupied Palestinians territories (oPt),” aid AIDA. “Israel’s unilateral annexation and related efforts to alter the character and status of occupied East Jerusalem, including by population transfer, have profound implications for the future status of the city and have been deemed null and void by the UN Security Council. These practices and policies by successive Israeli governments amount to flagrant violations of international law including international humanitarian law (IHL), as noted in United Nations Security Council resolutions 478 (1980) and 2334 (2016).”

The international organizations went on to say, “Forcibly transferring members of an occupied population is recognized as a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, potentially giving rise to individual criminal responsibility. Transfer by an occupying power of its own citizens into an occupied territory also violates the Fourth Geneva Convention. These transfers and related policies and practices violate numerous fundamental human rights, including the rights to family life, adequate housing and effective remedies.”

AIDA added: “Under international law, Israel is obliged to immediately cease unlawful conduct, take positive action to prevent future violations and ensure that reparations in full are provided for harms incurred through past unlawful conduct. Assertions of compliance with domestic legislation or administrative procedures imposed illegally by Israel cannot justify breaches of international obligations. Moreover, as occupying power, Israel is required under IHL to ensure public order and civic life, amounting to a standard of good governance for residents of the territory under its occupation. Finally, all states party to the Geneva Conventions are obliged to ensure respect for the Conventions, in particular grave breaches, the most serious category of IHL violations.”

AIDA called on the signatories to the Geneva Conventions to reiterate that East Jerusalem remains under Israeli military occupation and that any actions by the occupying power to alter Jerusalem’s character, status or demographic composition are not only illegal, but null and void, and that “the illegality of settlement policies, actions and related practices, including forcible transfers of oPt residents, whether in East Jerusalem, Area C or elsewhere, and promote accountability for violations of international law utilizing the full array of available countermeasures.”