Court orders eviction of Palestinian family from flashpoint East Jerusalem surburb

Reigniting legal saga over land ownership in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem court gives extended family of 20 until July to vacate home; Palestinians say they’ve lived there for decades

Palestinians and left-wing activists protest against the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, on April 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Palestinians and left-wing activists protest against the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, on April 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday ordered the eviction of a Palestinian family in Sheikh Jarrah, the latest in a legal saga that has come to symbolize the conflicting claims to the holy city.

Evictions in the East Jerusalem neighborhood have become a global symbol of the Palestinian cause, sparking raised tensions in Jerusalem that helped touch off the May 2021 war between Israel and the Hamas terror group.

According to Monday’s ruling, the Diab family was given until July to vacate the house in Sheikh Jarrah. The family said it would appeal.

Three families consisting of 20 people live in the house, according to the Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

The court described the case as a real estate dispute, ruling that the extended Diab family was squatting in a property owned by Jews and had no legal rights to it. Palestinians say they have lived in the homes for decades.

The case against the family was launched by Nahalat Shimon, the Jewish organization seeking to evict the families. The Palestinians claimed the Jordanians had been in the process of issuing them deeds to the property before Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967.

Border Police officers try to disperse Palestinians and activists gathering to demonstrate in the flashpoint neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, February 18, 2022. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

The Sheikh Jarrah homes were built on empty land owned by Jewish religious associations before the 1948 war. After Israel conquered East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, the government passed laws allowing Israelis to reclaim properties that had been taken over by the Jordanian government.

But Israeli law only allowed the reclaiming of properties that had been held by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. In cases where the Jordanian government had transferred the property to individuals, the new owners maintained their title to the land.

The Palestinian defendants in Sheikh Jarrah have presented documents purporting to show that the Jordanian government was in the process of registering them as the land’s owners before the 1967 war.

Saleh Diab, one of the men in the family, said his family has been living in the Sheikh Jarrah property since 1955. He told The Associated Press he was shocked by decision and thought his family was protected under a 2022 Supreme Court decision that halted the planned evictions of four other Palestinian families in the same area.

Monday’s decision comes at a time of heightened tensions in Jerusalem over the ongoing war in Gaza, sparked by Hamas’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel.

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