AMMAN: Armed police on Wednesday morning tore down the home of a Palestinian family in an east Jerusalem neighborhood following a long-running dispute over their right to live in the property.
The Israeli-run Jerusalem Municipality sent a police team at 3 a.m., backed by a canine squad and army troops, to forcefully evict the Salhieh family from their home in Sheikh Jarrah.
The move came after Mahmoud Salhieh took to the roof of the house on Monday, threatening to blow it up with gas canisters if he and his family were forced out. Other family members and activists had been maintaining a vigil inside and on top of the building.
Several residents and their supporters were arrested before police moved in to raze the property that the family had lived in for more than six decades.
The municipality confiscated the land, reportedly to build a school for the disabled.
Dana Mills, director of development and external relations and interim executive director of Peace Now, told Arab News that there was an empty plot 500 meters away, which the municipality had promised to allot for a yeshiva (educational institution) for Haredi Jews.
“Peace Now sees this eviction as part of the attempt to allow increased Jewish presence in East Jerusalem and a cynical move in the attempt to prevent East Jerusalem from becoming the capital of the future Palestinian state,” she said.
She added that the municipality was “acting insincerely,” and with the support of the government, “to rip apart the Palestinian culture and everyday life.”
Fadi Hidmi, Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs, told Arab News that the Israeli occupiers “continued their destructive policies based on flimsy allegations.”
Their goal, he said, was to change the political and demographic status of Jerusalem and “to fight the Palestinian Islamic and Christian presence in the city in defiance of international law.”
Palestinian Orthodox Bishop Atallah Hanna told Arab News that what was happening to the Salhieh family was a crime.
“Forcing an eviction of a family in this inhuman and barbaric way is a new crime committed against Palestinians in violation of international law. We declare our solidarity with the Salhieh family.”
Shihab Amjad, a political-science professor at Al-Quds University, told Arab News that the incident was linked to efforts to increase Jewish influence in Jerusalem.
“It hurts to see these things happening while the world is letting Palestinians face this (Israeli) might alone. The policy of making Jerusalem more Jewish was accelerated after the announcement to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.”
Ofer Kassif, a member of Knesset, described the predawn eviction as an act of “ethnic cleansing.”
Sami Abu Shehadeh, a parliamentarian from the Joint List, said the incident reflected the “ugly settlement mentality” of the Israeli government.
Human rights groups say 300 Palestinians in East Jerusalem are threatened with eviction. Palestinians who lost their homes in West Jerusalem have not been allowed to reclaim them.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, but Palestinians claim the east of the city as the capital of a future state.