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Palestinian family evicted from Jerusalem home of 50 years

Israeli soliders and settlers [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 September, 2017

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"They took us out and threw us outside. What greater injustice is there than this? We will most likely have to sleep on the streets."

Israeli police on Tuesday evicted a Palestinian family from their East Jerusalem home in which they lived for over half a century, making way for Israelis deemed the legal occupants.

75-year-old Fahamiya Shamasneh said police arrived unannounced before dawn and forced her out of the house along with her husband Ayoub, 84, their son and his family.

The couple had lived in the house in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of east Jerusalem near the historic Old City for 53 years.

An AFP journalist saw young Jewish men moving into the building after the family were escorted out.

"It is the hardest day," Fahamiya Shamasneh said as tears streamed down her eyes, left on the street after being evicted.

She said she was heating milk for her grandchildren when they banged on the door and announced themselves as police.

"They took us out and threw us outside. What greater injustice is there than this? We will most likely have to sleep on the streets."

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, pledged to support the family financially to find another home.

The Shamasnehs had for years been fighting a court battle against Jewish claimants who said the building was their family property. They claimed to have abandoned it when they fled it when east Jerusalem was occupied by Jordanian troops in the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel.

Under Israeli law, if Jews can prove their families lived in East Jerusalem before the 1948 war that led to creation of Israel they can demand that Israel's general custodian office return their "ownership rights".

No such law exists for Palestinians who lost their land.

During the war, known to Palestinians as the Nakba, or catastrophe, thousands of Jews fled Jerusalem as Jordanian-led Arab forces seized the eastern sector of the city.

Around 700,000 Palestinians were displaced in 1948, leading to a refugee crisis and national statelessness which still remain unresolved to this day.

The Shamasnehs explained they had paid 250 shekels ($70) a month to the general custodian since 1967. This is under an arrangement used by the settlers' side as proof that the family acknowledged its status as tenants

In 2013 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Jewish claimants.

Tuesday's eviction was the first in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood since 2009, according to Israeli anti-occupation group Peace Now.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Around 200,000 Israeli Jews now live in illegal settlements in East Jerusalem.

Peace Now says the house is part of a larger process of establishing settlements in Sheikh Jarrah.

"The eviction of the Shamasneh family, who resided in the house since 1964, is not only brutal but it is also indicating a dangerous trend that could threaten a future compromise in Jerusalem," the Israeli NGO said in a statement.

Arye King, director at the Israel Land Fund and a de facto spokesman for illegal Israeli settlement expansion in Jerusalem, said last month he wanted the area to go "back to being a Jewish neighbourhood".

"It is happening slowly, slowly," he said.

 

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