Palestinians with gas balloon tell police they’ll kill themselves rather than comply with an eviction order.
By Pesach Benson, United With Israel
A Palestinian family squatting on property in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is in a standoff with police who came to evict them on Monday morning. The family members are threatening to detonate gas cylinders on the roof of the building if police proceed with the eviction.
The Jerusalem Municipality is implementing the eviction order, originally issued in 2017, for land in the area of Derech HaZeitim St. The family has been fighting a legal battle over the property, which was expropriated by the municipality for the construction of a school. One home is owned by Mahmoud Salhia, the other by his sister.
About a year ago, the Jerusalem District Court ordered the family to vacate the land designated for public needs, in favor of establishing a special education school with 18 classrooms and six kindergartens.
Police officials said that since the court ruling, the family has been given “countless opportunities” to hand over the land by consent. Despite repeated extensions, meetings and attempts at dialogue, the Salhia family has refused to peacefully vacate.
Minister of Internal Security Omer Barlev said he was closely monitoring the events and said “it is impossible to hold the stick at both ends – both to demand that the municipality act for the welfare of the Arab residents, and also to oppose the construction of educational institutions for their welfare.”
The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is also known as Shimon HaTzaddik, after the Second Temple High Priest who is buried there. Jews had been living in this area of Jerusalem since the 1890s.
The two homes are located near a compound at the center of a separate controversy. In the 1930s, that compound was purchased by Nahalat Shimon, an association that developed the land for Yemenite and Sephardic Jews.
During the War of Independence, Jordan captured Jerusalem’s eastern neighborhoods and Jordanian families moved in. Some built new houses on the land in Sheikh Jarrah. The Jordanian Ministry of Housing also appropriated land to build houses for Arabs in the neighborhood.
That changed when Israel reunified Jerusalem during the Six-Day War of 1967. In a legal process that has dragged out for decades, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in 1982 in favor of the Sephardic Community Committee of Sheikh Jarrah landowners. The ruling cited a 1970 law permitting Jews to reclaim property in eastern Jerusalem if it had been purchased before 1948.
Some of the Palestinian families have acknowledged Jewish ownership.
TPS contributed to this report.
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