15 February 2019

After 54 years of its establishment, Shu’fat, one of the Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and the only one in occupied Jerusalem faces the danger of removal, as part of an Israeli plan to settle the refugee issue.

The Shu’fat refugee camp, established in 1965, more than a decade after the establishment of all other official refugee camps in the West Bank, was built on a 0.2-square-kilometer plot of land to the north of Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel two years later.

The Shu’fat refugee camp was established after the closure of the Mascar refugee camp in the Old City of Jerusalem due to the poor health conditions. The refugee population at Shu’fat belongs to 55 refugee villages in Jerusalem, Lod, Jaffa and Ramle.

The camp’s estimated population of 19,000 must pass through an Israeli military checkpoint in order to enter or leave the camp.

Plan of removal!
Shu’fat refugee camp is the only camp in the West Bank that is located within the boundaries of Jerusalem. The Israeli occupation forces separate it by a concrete wall from East Jerusalem. Today, it is threatened with removal throughout different stages by the Israeli occupation.

The former minister of Jerusalem, Hatem Abdelkader, warned in a press statement of the Israeli plan to remove the camp in stages by replacing Israeli institutions instead of UNRWA, especially in the sectors of health, education and services.

He pointed out that Israel now threatens to stop the work of educational and health institutions in the camp and other parts of the city of Jerusalem. It has previously demolished a number of Palestinian houses at the entrance to the camp in conjunction with sending a number of employees of the Israeli municipality to carry out garbage collection inside the camp.

“The goal is to pull the rug from under the United Nations represented by the UNRWA and turning the camp into the responsibility of the municipality of occupation,” he noted.

Closure of UNRWA schools
The Israeli plan is being implemented according to the Israeli Channel 13, which recently revealed that the Israeli occupation authorities have decided to shut down UNRWA schools in occupied Jerusalem, starting from the next academic year.

According to the channel, the closure decision came weeks after a secret meeting of the Israeli National Security Council, held in the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to approve a plan to close and expel institutions run by UNRWA from occupied Jerusalem.

The international agency is responsible for dozens of medical clinics, educational institutions and schools in occupied Jerusalem.

Withdrawal of recognition
Last October, the Israeli media revealed a plan of the municipality of the Israeli occupation in Jerusalem aiming at depriving UNRWA of all its powers, terminating its work and closing all its institutions in the occupied city, including schools, clinics and child service centers. This also includes changing the recognition of Shu’fat as a refugee camp and confiscating the land on which the camp is located.

In the same month, crews from the Israeli municipality protected by the Israeli occupation forces stormed the Shu’fat refugee camp in Jerusalem.

Local sources reported that municipal crews stormed the streets of the camp and began cleaning them for the first time, in addition to issuing more than 30 tickets for citizens’ cars.

The move was interpreted by citizens as a clear challenge to the work of the UNRWA staff at the Shu’fat refugee camp and the effective implementation of the statements and decisions of the former mayor of the Israeli occupation, Nir Barakat, who threatened to cancel the work of UNRWA in Jerusalem and in all areas.

UNRWA: Our operations are ongoing
“Our operations in Jerusalem, including Shu’fat Camp, continue uninterrupted; this is a humanitarian necessity and a fulfillment of our mandate and commitment to the Palestinian refugees. In accordance with our mandate, we are authorized to work in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including (East) Jerusalem.”

He pointed out that UNRWA provides services to an estimated 19,000 Palestinian refugees living in Shu’fat refugee camp and its adjacent suburbs, which has a total population of 75,000 Palestinians.

He asserted that UNRWA had not been informed of the decision to close the UNRWA schools it runs in East Jerusalem.

In late November, the Israeli occupation forces bulldozed 20 shops in the camp after giving notices to their owners to demolish them, as part of their destructive policy of displacing Jerusalemites.

Protection of the Trump administration
According to estimates, the Israeli occupation government believes that the current time is most appropriate to implement its plans after the US administration stopped its financial support to UNRWA and declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Abdelkader, who is from Shuafat refugee camp, asserts that the targeting of the camp comes in the context of a larger scheme aimed at wiping out the issue of Palestinian refugees.

He said that “Israel wants to terminate the refugee status of the camp’s residents by canceling the role of UNRWA, which would mean the integration of refugees under the responsibility of the municipality of occupation, and thus dropping the status of refugees from the population.”

“Israel wants to turn the refugee issue into one of services, but this is rejected, because the issue is political in essence,” he added.

SOURCE: Palestine Information Centre