Israeli police evict Jerusalem residents from contested homes

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police on Wednesday evicted Palestinian residents of a disputed property in a burning neighborhood of Jerusalem and demolished the building, leaving about 15 people homeless on a cold and rainy day following a arm wrestling tense earlier this week.

The pre-dawn demolition took place in Sheikh Jarrah, an East Jerusalem neighborhood where attempts by Jewish settlers to evict longtime Palestinian residents sparked protests that contributed to an 11-year war last year. days between Israel and militants in Gaza.

The latest demolition is a separate case, with the city removing the family to make way for what it says will be a large, specialized school for Palestinian children in the area. But it has also sparked local protests and drawn international criticism.

Earlier this week, the residents of the building had a tense showdown with the police who came to evict them. They climbed onto the roof of the house and threatened to set the gas tanks on fire. Eventually, the police backed down after demolishing a nearby nursery owned by the family.

Police intervened under cover of darkness early Wednesday, abducting the family and demolishing the house. Police said 18 people were arrested on suspicion of disturbing public order.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the deportation, calling it a “war crime” and saying Israel bears full responsibility for its “serious repercussions”. In a statement from his office, he called on the United States to “intervene immediately to end the continued Israeli crimes against our people in Jerusalem.”

The Salhiya family say they bought the property before 1967, when Israel captured East Jerusalem, while the state challenged the family’s claims in court.

The municipality says the land has always been zoned for public use and seized the property in 2017. It says the Salhiya family are squatters and the buildings were built illegally in the 1990s. It says it will compensate rightful owners and build the school to serve the Palestinian residents.

“These illegal constructions were preventing the construction of a school that could benefit children throughout the Sheikh Jarrah community,” the city and police said in a joint statement.

The United Nations says 15 people lived in the demolished building. City Hall said Mayor Moshe Lion ordered authorities to provide a rented home for the family at city expense.

The case has been in court for several years, and a Jerusalem judge last year ruled in favor of the city and authorized the eviction. The family appealed and are awaiting a decision, but the judge did not freeze the eviction order.

Palestinians in East Jerusalem say it is nearly impossible to get a building permit from the city, forcing them to build homes without a permit or move to the occupied West Bank.

Hagit Ofran, a researcher for the anti-settlement group Peace Now, acknowledged that the family had been unable to prove ownership. But she said it was clear they had been living there for years.

She said the special needs school could have been built elsewhere, including on land in the Arab Quarter donated to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish boarding school. She also said the house could have been left intact since the new school is to be built on adjacent land.

“This expropriation could have been done without deporting them,” she said. “It’s in Sheikh Jarrah, it’s in this very sensitive time, everyone is watching and the government hasn’t found the sense to stop it.”

Laura Wharton, a Dovish member of the city council, accused the city of decades of “criminal neglect” of its Palestinian residents, who make up about a third of the population.

“I protest, object and regret the conduct of all of this and expect the municipality and the government to start treating every resident with equality and respect,” she said.

Dozens of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem are at risk of eviction by Jewish settler organizations, and thousands are threatened with demolition due to discriminatory policies that make it extremely difficult for Palestinians to build new homes or expand existing ones. that already exist.

Other eviction threats in Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods, tied to decades-old legal battles between Palestinian residents and Jewish settlers, sparked protests and clashes last year that ultimately helped spark the 11-day war in Gaza.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank, in the 1967 Middle East War and annexed it in a move unrecognized by most of the international community. Israel considers the entire city its capital, and the municipality says it is working to improve services for all residents.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state, and the fate of the city is one of the most contentious issues in the century-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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