5 Palestinians freed following arrests during East Jerusalem eviction

Salihiya family’s lawyer says their release was conditioned on paying fine and a 30-day restraining order from flashpoint Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood

The remains of a house that was destroyed by Israeli authorities, in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, on January 19, 2022. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
The remains of a house that was destroyed by Israeli authorities, in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, on January 19, 2022. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Five members of a Palestinian family arrested after Israeli police demolished their house in East Jerusalem have been released, their lawyer told AFP on Thursday.

The arrest of several members of the Salihiya 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 Mahmud Salihiya and his sons.”

Police had accused several Salihiya 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 NIS 1,000 ($320) fine, and that the group was forbidden from entering Sheikh Jarrah for one month.

It was the first eviction in Sheikh Jarrah since 2017. Eviction battles in the neighborhood in May of last year were a major factor in tensions that touched off a brief war between Israel and Hamas terrorists, who threatened violence should Palestinians be removed from their homes.

In those cases, Palestinians risked having to surrender plots of land to Jews who had mounted legal claims to the land.

But Jerusalem authorities have stressed the Salihiya 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.

Left-wing activists protest outside Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon’s home, on January 19, 2022, against evictions in Sheikh Jarrah earlier in the day. (Yahel Gazit)

The city has said it purchased the land from previous Arab owners and that the Salihiyas had lived there illegally for years, but failed to agree to a compromise on an eviction order first issued in 2017.

Last year, a Jerusalem court ruled in favor of the city, although the family has continued to contest the eviction.

When police first arrived on Monday, the Salihiya family barricaded themselves inside their home. Police bulldozed a plant nursery belonging to the family on the plot, while they negotiated with the residents over their home.

Sheikh Jarrah, parts of which were historically known in Hebrew as Shimon Hatzadik or Nahalat Shimon, has become one of Jerusalem’s most tense neighborhoods. Palestinians live alongside a small cluster of right-wing Jewish nationalists who moved in following complex legal property cases.

According to the left-wing Ir Amim nonprofit, some 300 Palestinians are currently under threat of eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, mostly in private cases filed by right-wing Jewish groups.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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