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Palestinian family home demolished in troubled East Jerusalem neighborhood

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Palestinian family home demolished in troubled East Jerusalem neighborhood

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The Jerusalem Municipality said the eviction was carried out following District Court approval and that a school for local children with special needs could be built on the site.

The big operation began on Monday when Israeli police and municipal workers, backed by dozens of heavily armed Israeli special forces, intervened with a bulldozer and other heavy machinery.

A metal and glass structure housing a nursery selling plants was demolished as the family, accompanied by well-wishers, stood on the roof of their home in defiance.

At one point, family patriarch Mahmoud Salhiyeh threatened to light a gas canister and burn down the house where he lived with his wife and five children.

The eviction operation appears to have been interrupted on Monday evening, before resuming in the early hours of Wednesday with the evacuation of the family, and the destruction of the remaining buildings on the site.

“They arrived around three in the morning, cut off the electricity and surrounded the house, ransacked it and arrested all the members who were there,” a witness told CNN.

In a statement, the Jerusalem Municipality said that “a number of people have been detained for questioning on suspicion of violating a court order, violent fortification and disturbing public order.”

“Since the evacuation order was issued in 2017, family members living in the illegal buildings have had countless opportunities to give up the land with their consent, but unfortunately they have refused to do so, even after meetings and repeated attempts at dialogue by the Jerusalem Municipality,” the statement added.

Sheikh Jarrah is one of many neighborhoods in East Jerusalem where buildings housing Palestinian families and businesses are threatened with demolition or evacuation.

In some cases, authorities claim buildings were built illegally or are subject to expropriation orders. In others, land ownership is being contested by Jewish organizations in lawsuits that have been going on for decades.

The threat of what appeared to be imminent eviction for several families living within 200 meters of the Salhiyeh family sparked weeks of protests last spring and was followed soon after by an 11-day war between militants in Gaza and the Israeli army.

In these Sheikh Jarrah cases, which are separate from the Salhiyeh family case, the houses are built on land given to the families in the 1950s by Jordan, which controlled the eastern part of the city between 1948 and 1967.

In these cases, Jewish groups say the land originally belonged to them and use an Israeli restitution law that allows them to reclaim it. Palestinians who lost their homes in the fighting that accompanied the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 do not have the same legal recourse.

Beyond the individual legal contexts that tend to characterize the different cases, the issue of land ownership more generally remains among the most sensitive in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the East Jerusalem cases are perhaps currently the most sensitive in all.

“The policy of the government and the municipality in East Jerusalem is one of expropriation, demolition and arrests, mainly in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. The continued demolition and eviction of Palestinians from their homes has not ceased since 1967, Ahmad Tibi, an Arab deputy in the Israeli parliament, tweeted on Wednesday.

The European Union Mission in Jerusalem, which led a delegation of diplomats to a demonstration in support of the family on Monday, had called on authorities to defuse the situation, saying such demolitions undermined prospects for peace.

Palestinian family home demolished in troubled East Jerusalem neighborhood

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