JERUSALEM: Five members of a Palestinian family arrested after Israeli police demolished their house in East Jerusalem have been released, their lawyer said on Thursday.
The arrest of several members of the Salhiya family came as they were evicted from their house in the sensitive neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah by Israeli authorities before dawn on Wednesday. Walid Abu Tayeh, the family’s lawyer, confirmed “the release of the five people detained since Wednesday, including Mahmoud Salhiya and his sons.”
Police had accused several Salhiya family members of “violating a court order” and public disturbance.
Abu Tayeh said the release of the five on Thursday was conditional on payment of a 1,000 Israeli shekel ($320) fine, and that the group was forbidden from entering Sheikh Jarrah for one month.
The looming eviction of other Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah in May last year partly fueled an 11-day war between Israel and armed Palestinian factions in Gaza.
In those cases, Palestinians risked having to surrender plots of land to Jewish settlers who had mounted legal claims to the land.
But Jerusalem authorities have stressed the Salhiya family eviction is a different case and that the city intends to build a special needs school on the land, benefitting Arab residents of east Jerusalem.
The city has said it purchased the land from previous Arab owners and that the Salhiya’s had lived there illegally for years, but failed to agree to a compromise on an eviction order first issued in 2017. The foreign ministries of France, Germany, Italy and Spain urged Israeli authorities to stop the construction of new housing units in East Jerusalem.
In a statement, the European countries said that the hundreds of new buildings would “constitute an additional obstacle to the two-state solution,” referring to international peace efforts to create a state for Palestinians.
Israeli authorities recently approved plans for the construction of around 3,500 homes in occupied East Jerusalem, nearly half of which are to be built in the controversial areas of Givat Hamatos and Har Homa.
The foreign ministries said that building in this area would further disconnect the West Bank from East Jerusalem and that these settlements are a violation of international law.
The four countries also expressed concern about the evictions and demolitions in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Israel captured East Jerusalem including the Old City in a 1967 war and later annexed it, a move not recognized internationally.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem for the capital of a state they seek in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which abuts the city, and the Gaza Strip. Israel views the entire city as its indivisible capital.
Most world powers deem the Israeli settlements illegal for taking in territory where Palestinians seek statehood.