Israel gives UNRWA 30 days to evacuate Jerusalem facility

The Israel Land Authority found that UNRWA was holding “without consent” 36 dunams of land in the capital’s Ma’alot Dafna neighborhood.

By David Isaac | | Topics: Jerusalem, United Nations
Israelis protest against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) outside one of its offices in Jerusalem, March 20, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israelis protest against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) outside one of its offices in Jerusalem, March 20, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The Israel Land Authority notified the UN relief agency UNRWA that it must immediately vacate state land and buildings in northern Jerusalem, which it had occupied illegally.

The Israel Land Authority is also demanding retroactive compensation of $27 million shekels (~$7 million) for the years the United Nations Relief and Works Agency used the land.

Yitzchak Goldknopf, minister of construction and housing, announced the decision on Wednesday afternoon, at the annual meeting of the Israel Bar Association in Eilat.

In a letter sent Wednesday to UNRWA’s leadership, the ILA said: “According to our inspection and the information we have, you are occupying and holding without the consent of the Israel Land Authority, a division of land in an area of ​​approximately 36 dunams [3.6 hectares, or 8.9 acres] located in the Ma’alot Dafna neighborhood in Jerusalem.

“There are buildings on the land that were built without a legal permit,” the letter continued.

“You are hereby required to immediately stop any unlawful use, destroy everything you have built in violation of any law, vacate the land of any person and/or object and return the land to the authority, and this within 30 days from the date of this letter,” the Israel Land Authority said.

The agency’s Jerusalem headquarters is in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, north of the Old City.

Zionist NGO Im Tirtzu, which has protested for months outside UNRWA’s Jerusalem offices, celebrated the move. “We are excited to learn that the public pressure has borne fruit. Kudos to Minister Goldknopf for his determination,” the group said in a statement.

Activists protest against UNRWA outside one of its offices in Jerusalem, April 9, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The Knesset on Wednesday passed in preliminary reading a bill designating UNRWA as a terrorist organization, and another bill ithat seeks to strip UNRWA of various immunities, involving among other things taxation, imports and exports and lawsuits.

In January, Israel revealed that UNRWA staff took part in the Oct. 7 massacre.

Also in January, a comprehensive report published by UN Watch documented a Telegram group for UNRWA teachers in Gaza in which many glorified the massacre and advocated the execution of Israeli hostages.

A Nov. 6, 2023, report by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) revealed evidence of the connection between the curriculum sponsored by UNRWA and the atrocities committed on Oct. 7, reflecting years of hate taught in its schools.

“Time and again we have warned that UNRWA staff and school materials have created a breeding ground for terror,” IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said.

The U.S. is UNRWA’s largest donor, disbursing almost $1 billion in funds to the UN agency over the last five years, followed by the European Union and other countries, Sheff said.

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