Palestinians evicted from Jerusalem home

A court returned the house in the Sheikh Jarrah district to its Jewish owners, who had fled in 1948


Israeli police evicted a Palestinian family from an East Jerusalem home this week after a lengthy legal battle.

The Shamasneh family finally lost a court battle against Jewish claimants who said that the building was their family property. The Jewish family, whose identity is not known, fled when East Jerusalem was occupied by Jordanian troops in the 1948 War of Independence.

Under Israeli law, Jews can reclaim property lost when Jordan occupied East Jerusalem in the war of 1948-9.

During the war, thousands of Jews fled Jerusalem as Jordanian-led Arab forces seized the city, while hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled from land that was later to become Israel.

In 2013, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Jewish claimants, who subsequently sold the property on to unspecified owners.

On Tuesday morning, police were deployed to the Sheikh Jarrah district as officials evicted the Shamasnehs. The family of six, one of whom is in his 80s, left the house and sat outside with activists, local media said.

During the eviction family members  were heard to shout, “This is the face of the occupation. This is the racist government.” One activist held a sign that read: “Enough with the occupation” and, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Shortly after the eviction, the Associated Press reported that Jewish settlers entered the house accompanied by a private security guard. An Israeli flag hung in the entranceway to the kitchen, according to the news agency.

The Israel Land Fund identified a descendant of the land's original owners and helped her reclaim the property through the Israeli courts. It was subsequently sold to another Jewish family. In 2013, Israel's Supreme Court threw out an appeal by the Shamasnehs.

"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," a statement from the Peace Now group read.

The family's case was backed by pro-Palestinian rights groups and international figures, including former US President Jimmy Carter.

Palestinians say the Israeli law allowing Jewish property reclamation is discriminatory since no such law exists for Palestinians, some 800,000 of whom fled or were expelled from what became Israel.

Yonatan Yosef, a spokesman for the Jewish residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, told the AP that he was pleased to see another home "redeemed".

"Another house in the Land of Israel, another house in Jerusalem, close to the Western Wall, close to the Old City, close to the Temple Mount, which is the heart of the people of Israel," he said. "We hope that all the houses in this neighbourhood...will return to Jewish hands."

According to the European Union, at least 180 households in East Jerusalem face threats of eviction.

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