Israel/Occupied Palestinian territory: three Palestinians from East Jerusalem staging sit-in on ICRC premises

28-09-2010 Interview

Since 1 July 2010, three East Jerusalem Palestinians have been carrying out a sit-in at the ICRC's Jerusalem office to protest against expulsion orders from the Israeli authorities. The ICRC's head of delegation in Israel and the occupied territories, Pierre Wettach, explains the organization's position.


  Pierre Wettach, the ICRC's head of delegation    
     Who are the three Palestinians from East Jerusalem and why did they come to the ICRC office?  

On 1 July, two members of the Palestinian Legislative Council – Ahmed Attoun and Mohammed Totah – and former Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arafeh, all three of whom are affiliated with Hamas, entered the ICRC building in East J erusalem and stayed there to protest against their expulsion orders from Jerusalem and Israeli territory. They said they came to the ICRC because they knew the organization has long played a humanitarian role (for more than 40 years) in connection with the application of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the occupied territories.

 Can the ICRC prevent them from being arrested? Some reports suggested that you are protecting them against the police.  

We made it absolutely clear to the three Palestinians from East Jerusalem that the ICRC premises do not benefit from the principle of inviolability. Contrary to what has been suggested by some reports, the ICRC cannot prevent – and is not preventing – the Israeli authorities from taking action. Mr Attoun, Mr Totah and Mr Abu Arafeh are perfectly aware that if the police decide to enter the building and arrest them, there is nothing we can do to prevent this from happening. From the very beginning, we have been fully transparent towards the Israeli authorities about the presence of the three Palestinians on our premises.

 Under Israeli law, the three Palestinians could face expulsion from East Jerusalem; should this happen, what would be your position?  

Our position is very clear and we have already informed the Israeli authorities about it.

Israel has obligations under international humanitarian law towards Palestinians from the occupied territory. Mr Attoun, Mr Totah and Mr Abu Arafeh are Palestinians from East Jerusalem, which is occupied territory. Under international humanitarian law, forcible transfers of Palestinian residents from their home, for whatever reason, are prohibited (Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention).

 Will the three persons stay on ICRC premises indefinitely? How are you dealing with this situation?  

We have no way of knowing how long they will stay on our premises. Their case is still pending before the Israeli Supreme Court and, as far as we can tell, the next hearing will be held in October.