United Nations investigator Michael Lynk on Monday urged Israel to reverse its “extremely alarming” eviction orders against 16 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem.
The evictions are the result of legal efforts by two Jewish settler organisations.
Mr Lynk, a UN rapporteur on Palestinian rights, said the orders against mostly long-term residents and two single mothers in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods spotlight Israeli efforts to “change the demography of the city”.
“These evictions are extremely alarming and appear to be part of a broader pattern of forcing Jerusalemite Palestinian families from their homes to clear the way for more illegal Israeli settlements,” Mr Lynk said in a statement.
According to Mr Lynk, the mostly Palestinian neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan have seen an influx of Jewish settlers in recent decades and are at risk of disappearing.
He criticised the Israeli settlement organisations Nahalat Shimon and Ateret Cohanim for using a law that allows Israeli Jews to file claims for East Jerusalem properties that may have been owned by Jewish families before 1948, the year of Israel’s creation.
Such lawsuits have already forced hundreds of Palestinian families from their homes in the Old City, Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, and at least 877 people, including 391 children, currently face evictions, the UN says.
“The eviction orders are not random but appear to be strategically focused on an area in East Jerusalem known as the 'historic basin',” said Mr Lynk.
“They seem to be aimed at clearing the way for the establishment of more illegal Israeli settlements in the area and physically segregating and fragmenting East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.”
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and most countries regard the settlements that Israel has built there as illegal. Israel and some Israeli settler groups cite biblical and historic links to the area in defending their actions.