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Israeli settler group takes over Palestinian home in East Jerusalem after family evicted

Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, seen from the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem. [Anadolu /Getty]

Date of publication: 10 July, 2019

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A Palestinian family was evicted from their home in East Jerusalem on Wednesday after Israeli settlers won a court battle that stretched back more than two decades.
A Palestinian family that has been battling against a settler group for over 25 years was evicted from their home in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan on Wednesday.

An Israeli court found that the Elad foundation, which seeks to increase the Jewish presence in mainly Palestinian East Jerusalem, had legally purchased that portion of the property and ruled in its favour.

The apartment was home to a 53-year-old woman and her four children from the Siyam family.

"To take us from the house is like taking my heart from my body," one of the Palestinian residents, Ali Siyam, 20, told AFP.

Dozens of heavily-armed police stormed the house on Wednesday and removed the family's furniture and electrical appliances, local media reported.

The family will temporarily stay with relatives.

The Siyam family had launched a legal appeal in a bid to fight the eviction, but it was denied and they were ordered to pay 10,000 shekels (£2,250) in legal costs to Elad.

"An NGO rich in resources and assets uses the best lawyers to file lengthy, exhausting lawsuits against hard-up Palestinian families, families who have to spend a lot of money to try to protect their home and who must pay lawyers and experts for expensive legal proceedings, at the end of which they are also required to pay court costs," said Israeli NGO Peace Now in a statement.

Wednesday's eviction is the latest episode in a decades-long legal battle.

The house in question was left to eight heirs by the family's grandmother.

Elad bought the rights of three male heirs. After failing to argue that the remaining female heirs seceded their claim to the men of the family, the group turned to the Custodian of Absentee Property.

The court considered two of the female heirs living abroad to be absentees, thereby allowing their quarter of the house to be transferred under the Law of Absentee Property to the custodian, which then sold it to Elad. 

Elad bought another eighth from an heir, bringing it's total share of the property up to three quarters.

The use of the Law of Absentee Property in East Jerusalem has been criticised by several attorney generals and Supreme Court justices.

The eviction included an adjacent store owned by the Siyam family as well as the courtyard.

"The rulings and decisions speak for themselves. We will continue to work in accordance with the law to advance and develop ancient Jerusalem," Elad said in a statement.

NGO Elad works to move Jewish residents into Palestinian neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem.

The foundation, known in English as the City of David foundation, also oversees a nearby archaeological centre in Silwan that seeks to demonstrate Jews' historical connection to Jerusalem.

It was in the news recently when US officials attended an inauguration of an archaeological project organised by the foundation in Silwan, another break with traditional diplomatic practice by President Donald Trump's White House that drew Palestinian outrage.

Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are considered illegal under international law and major roadblocks to peace, as they are built on land Palestinians see as part of their future state.

About 450,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements often in confrontation with the territory's 2.5 million Palestinians, in addition to 200,000 living in settlements in occupied east Jerusalem.

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